How to Craft Stories within Your Business Presentations – Use the Hero’s Journey Framework
by Kelly Vandever
“I know a story would work great but I’m just having trouble getting started.”
These words came from a young, eager sales professional who was in the midst of preparing a presentation.
He knew purposefully crafting a story would be beneficial to him, both as a presenter and as a sales professional, because…
Stories capture an audience’s attention
Stories help audience members see their own challenges within the stories of others making the experience more personal
Stories let the audience feel like they’re getting to know you as the speaker and how you think
Stories help people lower their guards
He knew all that, and he had a story, but he wasn’t sure where to start. So I suggested that he borrow from other great storytellers and use “The Hero’s Journey” as a framework.
The Hero’s Journey Framework for Business Stories
The Hero’s Journey has been around as long as stories themselves. Much has been written and dissected about the format but for business stories, there’s really only four elements that you need to know about the Hero’s Journey.
4 Parts of The Hero’s Journey
- The Quest – What is it that the hero of the story is after? What’s his or her objective or goal?
- Obstacles – As the hero goes toward their goal, what problems or challenges get in the way?
- Resolution – How does the hero get through the obstacles that present themselves along the way?
- New Wisdom – What did the hero learn along the way about themselves or about life? That new wisdom helps us learn vicariously through the hero’s journey.
Let’s use an example to help illustrate the structure.
I’m thinking about a particular story from my early days as a manager.
What was my quest?
My quest was to tell Mrs. Harrell that I’d gotten a new person assigned to help her in the administrative office.
I called Mrs. Harrell into my office. I told her that I knew how hard she’d been working so I’d asked our boss to move someone in to help her out and he agreed.
What were my obstacles?
A few minutes after giving Mrs. Harrell the “good news,” I passed her office and noticed Mrs. Harrell crying at her desk.
I rushed in and said, “Mrs. Harrell, what’s wrong?” half expecting her to say that someone had died.
Instead, between sobs, she said, “You – don’t – think – I’m – doing – a – good – job.”
I was shocked! That was not my intent at all!
What was my resolution?
I told Mrs. Harrell that I didn’t think she was doing a bad job.
I explained that normally in an organization our size we’d have 2 or 3 people working in the administrative office. She was doing the job of 2 or 3 people. My intent was that things would be better if we added another person to the office. It was not a reflection on her. There was just more work than one person could handle.
What was my new wisdom?
Communications is difficult. Even when we have the best of intentions, you never know how someone is going to receive the message you send.
(I have used this story many times over the years when talking to employees about communications problems or when speaking to business leaders about leadership challenges in communicating.)
In business presentations, we want to focus on key facts involved in the story and this framework helps focus you on the most relevant facts.
What’s Next? Tell the Story and Tweak!
Once you have the key details identified, try telling the story to friends and colleagues. Look for spots that seem to confuse people about the story, then add back in details to make the story clearer. Then repeat.
If you really want to get help with a story, try telling it to more people. Or hire me or another coach to give you feedback. Listen to what people have to say and incorporate changes that feel right to help you better share the story and make your point.
Stories really are valuable tools to use in your presentations. Take the time to craft them well!
Kelly Vandever is a leadership and communications expert who helps leaders and organizations thrive in today’s attention-deficit, entertain-me-now, wait-while-I-post-that-on-Facebook world. Connect with Kelly and discover how opening up and speaking practically can bring you better business results.
Contact Kelly by phone at 770-597-1108, email her or tweet her @KellyVandever.