Business-Focused Story Structures for Business Storytelling
Sometimes business-focused stories don’t quite fit these more dramatic types of structures. When this happens, try using the components of business-focused story structures we’ve identified here, which are also powerful and easy to use. Keep in mind that the complexion of the story will change based on the arrangement of the elements that you choose.
With business-focused story structures, the story either starts with a setting or the context — or with a problem. Action is taken to resolve the challenge, the problem, or the hindrance, and the results are shared, revealing how it was all resolved.
There comes a point in the story when you get to share the insights you gained (evaluation or lesson) and offer suggestions to the audience about actions or steps they may want to take that are linked to your message.
Following these business story structures is a good idea when you only have a short time to tell a story and want to ensure you hit all the critical points (for example, in job interviews and short presentations). They also work well when you’re writing a very short story and want to keep it tightly focused.
Because of these needs, a good way to use the elements of any given business story structure is as a check to ensure the first draft of a story includes them.
SHARES stands for Setting, Hindrance, Action, Results, Evaluation, and Suggested actions. This structure begins with a setting (“I was sitting at my desk . . .”), followed by the hindrance or obstacle that’s creating a problem. The action that was taken is given next, along with the result. The teller then provides a statement evaluating the experience (“this made me think about . . .”), ending with suggested actions.
Here’s a quick example: A good story starts by presenting the setting (Cristi puts the finishing touches on a brochure in her office, Bob gets a call at his desk from support staff), then shows the hindrance or obstacle that was present (not winning government contracts, being shut out of a critical database).
They reveal the actions that were taken (Cristi attends the seminar and gives the speaker a brochure and ChapStick, Bob tries official channels and then files a Freedom of Information Act request). Finally they gain results (she wins the contract, he gets database access), evaluate the experience (thoughts about being prepared, being creative), and suggest actions (make a meaningful connection, assert yourself).
PARLAS stands for Problem, Action, Result, Learning, Application, and Suggested actions. With the PARLAS structure, you start by presenting the problem. Then you work your way through the action taken to solve the problem, what the result was, what was learned in the process (“what I learned from this was . . .”), how that learning applies to today, ending with suggested actions for your audience.
CHARQES stands for Context, Hindrance, Action, Results Quantified, Evaluation, and Suggested actions. The CHARQES structure starts with laying out the context — what was happening and why. Then the challenge is presented, what action was taken comes next, followed by the result in quantifiable numbers. After this, the teller gives an evaluation of the experience and finally provides suggested actions to take.
CCARLS stands for Context (“It was the bottom of the 9th inning”), Challenge, Action, Result, Lesson, and Suggested actions. This structure starts with the context of the issue (similar to CHARQES). Then the challenge is presented, the action that was taken is brought in, and the result is provided — along with the lesson. Suggested actions are given at the end.