Business Storytelling For Dummies
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Rarely will you hear the first rendition of a business’s story and say, “Wow. That’s well crafted.” If you’re truly serious about sharing stories from others that compel people to action, then you’ll need to spend time capturing them and exploring their various facets.

Attend to legal/ethical issues

Before you can use anyone’s story, except your own, you need to get permission in writing to obtain and use it. Too often people have proclaimed a story (experience) was theirs when it truly is someone else’s.

Keep in mind that some individuals may not want everyone to know about what they went through, especially if their story will be displayed in social media.

Here are the main elements that need to be a part of an agreement. You should consult a legal expert for further assistance.

  • Consent to use: Is this an exclusive (no one else can use the story) or nonexclusive (the person can give rights to others) permission?

  • Attribution: How does the person want to be acknowledged?

  • Representations and warranties: You need to ensure that the story and or information is original and doesn’t violate any copyright, personal or proprietary right, or contain any information received in confidence, as a trade secret, or on the understanding that it would not be disclosed or published, nor discloses proprietary information without express authorization of the owner of said proprietary information, nor violate any contract, express or implied.

  • Contributor rights: What rights does the contributor keep? The right to copyright, license others to use the work, create derivative works, and so forth? This also includes how copyright will be noted and obtained.

  • Duration of the agreement. How long do you have the right to keep the story and use it?

Create and transcribe an audio recording

One of the easiest ways to capture the raw version of a story and maintain its spoken nature is to record audio of the person telling it. But make sure to prep them in advance. Make sure you have just the right story (based on your story prompt).

Sometimes people think of two or three stories that would be good, and you need to whittle them down to the one that’s most unique.

Also help the individual frame the story ahead of time — where it starts and where might it end. Ask the person to share as many details as possible, such as dialogue, visuals, smells, and the like. They can always be removed later. Then turn on that recording device and listen away — in silence, of course.

Once you’ve finished recording, ask reflective questions, give appreciation, ask clarifying questions, and thank them again. Then have the audio transcribed. You can do it yourself if you have the time; it can help you to hear it again. You can also use software designed for this specific purpose, ask an intern or assistant to help, or hire out the service.

Bullet the flow of the story

Some people feel more comfortable outlining a story before they begin to craft it. There are two ways to do this: outlining and storyboarding.

Outlining is very likely a skill you learned in grade school. That is to outline the raw version of the story in bullet format with two — no more than three — layers of headings.

The second is to storyboard it. Storyboarding is useful if you find it easier to create visually. You’ll need a stack of Post-it notes, 3 × 5 cards, markers, and a large piece of foam core board from an office supply store.

  1. Get an idea.

    Select a story to work on — one you’ve heard through using a story prompt or a hip pocket story.

  2. Gather all the materials.

    Write the following labels individually onto Post-It Notes. Place them on foam core board (maybe several pieces) or along a wall in a line:

    • The hero

    • The enemy

    • The major needs of your character

    • The major issues of the story

    • The kinds of possible resolutions

    • What the major result is

    • Lessons that you might want to incorporate

    • Happy times

    • The problem or conflict

    • Hard times

    • Funny moments

    • The obstacles, challenges, or barriers

    • Victory moment

    • The realization

    • Great parting message

    Using blank Post-it notes, look at each label and quickly draw an image or jot down a keyword it brings to mind. Don’t write sentences — only a word if you can’t figure out an image. Brainstorm as many images and words as you can. Some categories may only have one or two (hero, for example). Post these images and words underneath the appropriate label.

  3. Mix and match the elements to create a mock-up.

    From the images and words you generated while brainstorming, select those you want to convey and stick them onto the 3 × 5 cards — one image/word for each card. Then stack them in the order you think they should go in. You’ve now created what’s known as an image deck (or story line), even though it also has keywords as part of it.

Write out the raw version

If you like to write, you may want to sit down and let the story flow from your fingertips through your keyboard or pen. Don’t edit as you write. Let it be a stream of consciousness that gets captured. Don’t worry at this time if you’re writing a description of a series of events or you’re truly telling the story.

Create a video recording

Use a cellphone camera, Flip camera, or laptop visual recording software to capture the raw version of a story in this manner. More often than not, you’ll still need to transcribe the audio portion so you can polish it.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Karen Dietz, PhD, is a 25-year veteran in business storytelling consulting, training, and leadership, and organizational development. Lori L. Silverman offers business storytelling training, keynotes, and consulting. For 26 years, she's advised enterprises on strategic planning and organizational change.

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