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Four Techniques for Drawing Business Stories Out of Others – Part 1


Business Stories for PresentationsLately I’ve become obsessed with drawing stories out of other people’s lives.  Specifically, I want to help draw business stories out of organizational leaders and subject matter experts so they can use them in presentations and for training others.

I haven’t really found much written on the topic of pulling business stories out of other people – if you know of some good resources, please add descriptions or links to them in the comments below.

In an effort to see what people were doing, I approached a few colleagues I know through professional associations.  I went specifically to instructional design professionals.

Instructional designers are the people who specialize in designing training programs to teach employees technical, business and professional skills.  I figured that as part of their process, they likely heard stories when speaking to organizational leaders and subject matter experts.  You often see case studies and narratives as part of training material so I thought I’d see what they have to say.

With their input, combined with my own thoughts, here are…

Four Techniques for Drawing Business Stories Out of Others

Business Story Producer

Technique #1 – Business Story Producer

The way the business story producer works is geared on what naturally occurs during a cocktail party.

When you attend a social gathering people usually start out with small talk and eventually someone would end up telling a story about something interesting that happened to them.

As we listen, we usually think of a time when something similar happened to us.  In fact, after everyone’s done laughing at the first storyteller, you might even be the one who jumps in and tell the group one of your story.

As human beings, we have a tendency to seek experiences in our own lives that will help us relate more closely with others.  When you hear a story, something clicks in your head — That’s like when blah, blah, blah did xyz.  And thus, at a cocktail party, the conversation goes from one story to the next to the next.

To help your leaders or subject matter experts generate more stories from their own experiences I’ve developed a way to leverage what happens naturally occurs at a cocktail party (without the cocktails of course).


Business Story Producer Process

Step 1 – Cluster People in Groups of Four to Six

To get the storytelling momentum going, you need at least four people per group.  With more than six people, you risk having not have a chance to participate and your shy folks less likely to talk.  Four to six seems to be a good number.

Step 2 – Explain the Process.

Explain to those participating the information above and draw the parallel to the cocktail party experience.

Tell the participants,

“I’m going to tell a story of something that happened to me in my career.  We’ll call that the catalyst story.  As you listen to the story, write down a key word or two that reminds you of something that happened in your career.

If you don’t think of anything, that’s OK.  But if you do, jot down those key words that will remind you of the story.

When I’m done with the story, you’ll get into your groups, and whoever has a story that came from my catalyst story, share your story with the group.

As you listen to the first story within your group, jot down any key words that remind you of something else that happened to you.  Whether it comes from the original catalyst story or from one of the stories you hear from in the group, write down that word or two that will job your memory.  And when you get an opportunity, share your story with the group.”

Step 3 – Let the Group Talk.

Watch as people discuss the stories that occur to them as they discuss the topic.  Give them ten to fifteen minutes to discuss within their groups.

Step 4 – Debrief.

Ask participants what happened in the group.  Did it simulate the cocktail party experience?  How might they use a similar technique to gain stories from leaders and subject matter experts within their own organizations?

Next Post – The Catalyst Story

This process hinges on telling that first catalyst story.  In the next post, we’ll discuss characteristics of a good Catalyst Story for use in the business story producer exercise.