The key element of business storytelling that we can learn from Pixar and Kurt Vonnegut

Our brains are wired to stories. Audiences -including business audiences- love stories that support a key message we want to make. Stories give context to a message.

What is the key ingredient to having a good story?  A standard structure.

In my leadership seminars I found that it is easiest for participants to craft their story if they have a good structure that they can use to plot their story on.

I have recently come across a nice five minute video of literature grand master Kurt Vonnegut that describes the essence of basic story flow: watch and enjoy (thanks @LeoExter for sharing):

Emma Coats -Chief Storyteller at Pixar- has once tweeted about the 22 secrets of storytelling at Pixar (see the overview here). Number 4 was on the “story spine”:

  • Once upon a time there was___________
  • Every day___________
  • Until one day___________
  • Because of that___________
  • Because of that___________
  • Until finally___________

Probably you should adjust the language a little bit for business communication “Once upon a time there was an SAP upgrade” will also get you attention but maybe not the right one.

However, something like this might well work:

  • In our company we have an IT task force
  • They were all focused on upgrading the hard ware environment
  • One day they were called to come to a site and fix a problem
  • Three people of the team went there and tried to find the problem. They looked everywhere but could not find it.
  • Because of that they started looking at unusal places…one of the team members opened the closets and in one of them he saw: a huge mess of cables
  • This was the root cause of the issue. They fixed it and went on to check this in all of our sites…

Extra tip: when you tell these stories, you can of course spice this up with full page pictures like this (project it without your corporate logo 🙂 )shutterstock_Cable_Mess


What experiences have you made with (business) storytelling in your presentations and speeches? I would love to hear from you.

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Image credit: Shutterstock

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