Storyboarding Your Business Story

By Karen Dietz, Lori L. Silverman

Part of Business Storytelling For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Storyboarding is a nonlinear way to craft and learn your business stories. Here are the steps to creating an effective one. If you’ve been crafting your stories in other ways, try this approach for variety. It may stimulate a more creative flow.

Steps Instructions Comments
Step 1 Grab a pad of Post-It notes, a stack of 3 × 5 cards, and
something to write with.
If your story is very long, it can help to break up sections by
using different colored 3 × 5 cards.
Step 2 Start with an image or a trigger word. What’s the first
image that brings your story to mind? What’s the first image
you want to convey to listeners? Some images may be too complex to
draw. But a simple trigger word generates an image in the mind. So
feel free to generate a mix of images and trigger words.
Draw the image or write the trigger word on a Post-It and stick it
to a 3 × 5 card. This isn’t about art! Just scribble
what you need to so you can remember the image or word.
If you don’t like what you drew or the selected word, rip off
the Post-It and write a new one. That’s a lot cheaper than
recycling 3 × 5 cards.
For stories to be authentically shared, don’t memorize
them by rote. Spend time figuring out the images and trigger words
you want to convey and put them in the order you want so you can
share the story. Having a solid launch makes the rest of the story
easier to tell.
If you can see the image, you can convey it to your listeners. The
job of the storyteller, when telling, is to feed the listener
images to feast on. Focusing on images is an easy way to both
remember the story and trigger the experience in your
listeners’ minds. When you’re re-experiencing the
story, your listeners can experience it with you.
Step 3 Continue through the rest of the story. Keep drawing images
and/or scribbling trigger words until you’ve gone through the
entire story. By the end you should have a full image deck.
Don’t worry about how many cards you have at this point.
Just get the images down in the order you think they go in. The
size of the deck can get large if it’s a long story. Rubber
band sets of them together if you need to.
Step 4 By yourself, review the story and eliminate extraneous details.
Keep it simple. Boil the story down to its essential images.
In the first pass you might create a card for every piece and
detail of the story. That can easily become overwhelming. Now is
the time to start winnowing down the pile to make it manageable and
easier to remember.
Step 5 Speak the story out loud. Rearrange the images as you need to.
You may also find that an image or trigger word you discarded
becomes important again. Add it back in. Likewise, some other
images can be eliminated.
Once you start speaking the story out loud, the order of the
images may change. This is normal as you recall what happened and
figure out how the story wants to be told.
Step 6 Images need transitions to get the listener from one place in
the story to the next. Solidify these transitions. Write them out,
if necessary. These are usually very short — typically a
simple sentence. It can often help to memorize these
Transitions help get you to the story’s key message. If
you’re clear about them, then you have flexibility in how you
share your experiences. They allow you to tell the story in
different ways to different audiences while still remembering the
steps you took to get to the key point.
Step 7 Practice, practice, practice. Practice the story out loud. Get
used to hearing your story being spoken.
Take your image deck out for a walk, telling your story out loud as
you work through your cards. Or speak it while on a treadmill. Time
your story as you practice and walk with it.
Share your story with a trusted partner.
In this step you’re learning to tell the story by moving
from image to image, and using your transitions to get from one
place to another.
As you speak it out loud and with trusted friends, make further
adjustments as you figure out what’s working and what you
want to fix.
Speaking your story out loud as you walk or use a treadmill are
terrific ways to build the story into you physically, while
training you to tell it in spite of distractions. This is how you
begin to know physically what 10 minutes feels like. Or 3 minutes.
If you only have 3 minutes or 10 minutes to share your story,
building in this internal time clock is invaluable —
especially when a clock or timer isn’t available. And how
often do you glance at your watch when telling a story? Hardly
ever. If you do this physical step, you won’t need to.
Step 8 Practice and tell your story without the cards. Yeah! You’ve arrived. You know your story. You know the
order of the images so you can tell it well and with confidence.
Your transitions flow and the key message and following action
steps are delivered flawlessly.
Now you can tell that story in different ways by simply reordering
the cards, finding new transitions, and maybe even sharing a
different key point and/or action steps.
Just keep having fun!