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    Storytelling: What It Is and Why It's Important for Your Project

    1. Santander X Explorer

    Let’s suppose you’ve never told a story before. But you want to learn because you’re aware that at some point, you’ll have to do it. You’ve heard about storytelling and you know it’s important for your project: you’re in the right place to learn the basics and apply them immediately.

    Let’s get started: what is storytelling?

    It’s the art of shaping information into a memorable narrative with all its ingredients: setting, characters and a script. If the story is good:

    1. You’ll connect with your audience’s emotions.
    2. You’ll stimulate their imagination.

    And if you apply it to your project:

    1. You’ll convey a specific message.
    2. You’ll motivate your audience to take a specific action.

    What is business storytelling?

    As you can imagine, it’s a specific branch of storytelling to communicate your idea or project. The objectives are varied: to increase the loyalty of your customers (current and future), to encourage them to acquire your product or service, or to use it as a tool to raise funds (you can use it to present your story in your crowdfunding campaign, for example).

    Its effectiveness comes from the fact that people don’t want cold speeches, promotional emails, or phone calls to sell them something. They prefer to build a connection with ideas they identify with; storytelling will provide you with that connection through the story you tell.

    Speaking of it… the story

    Every time an author or speaker presents a series of interconnected events to an audience (they can use written or spoken word and even audiovisual media), they’re telling a story. It’s a very powerful and useful form of communication to bring a project to life and showcase its values or demonstrate what it’s proposals bring. Additionally, one of its greatest advantages is that it stays in memory and can be told over and over again. Not to mention that stories are much more appealing than data or figures.

    How do I create an effective story?

    You’ll have it when it helps people explore and overcome the uncertainty in their lives. Hence, most stories have this structure:

    1. A beginning where a typical, neutral situation is presented, where there are no problems.
    2. An element of tension is introduced, the customer’s pain.
    3. The protagonist of the story (it could be said customer) receives help from our product or service.
    4. The situation is resolved with happiness.

    The seven elements of storytelling

    It’s not enough to just “tell” your story following the structure as it is, randomly. For storytelling to be convincing, you need to incorporate these seven elements.

    - Theme: why that story happens. Here you should work on the message you want to share; for example, if your intention is to promote your project, you could focus on a call to action that promotes your products or services. If you want to connect with your audience, tell them about the benefits of overcoming a specific challenge.
    Pro tip: don’t directly address the theme from the beginning; let it be guessed through the interactions of the characters.

    - Characters: they should be close to your audience, relevant to your idea, and to your potential customers.
    Pro tip: if you have trouble creating characters, draw inspiration from your users.

    - Setting: it’s not just the place; you should also consider the date, sounds, textures, smells… build a complete atmosphere.
    Pro tip: describing this environment in the introduction of your story is one of the best ways for the audience to “get into“ the story.

    - Point of view: it will almost always be that of your user; this way, you’ll connect better with them and generate more empathy. Experiment to know how to achieve a greater impact: tell your story in the first person (I) and in the third (he or she) and choose the one you think “hooks” the most.
    Pro tip: use short phrases and present tense verbs; they’ll help you focus your audience’s attention and make them experience what you expose to them more directly.

    - Plot: it’s what happens in your story. It should include an introduction, an exciting incident, growing tension, and finally, the conclusion.
    Pro tip: ask yourself what challenge the characters are facing, what they need to do, how they achieve success, and what the results are. With this, you’ll have a first framework of the story.

    - Conflict: essential in any narrative since it’s the engine that drives listening. In your story, it will almost always be the problem your potential users face.
    Pro tip: let your audience get into the story and feel that the conflict affects them, and that will take you to the next (and last) point.

    - Resolution: the conclusion of your story; show how the protagonist solves their challenges.
    Pro tip: to maintain interest, focus on what’s important to your user; you’ll create a more powerful story.

    Types of storytelling

    Now all that’s left is to combine the previous elements, and you’ll have your storytelling narrative. We know it’s not easy; to start, try one of these structures, the most common when “building” a story. Choose the one that best suits your story or, if your strength is creativity, invent a new one: there are no limits!

    - The hero’s journey: the protagonist overcomes different challenges and completes a mission. After successfully doing so, they obtain a reward.

    This simple scheme has been successful in Hollywood for decades, as it creates a connection between the audience and the hero. To apply it to your project, explain how your product or service helps users (the heroes) triumph in their challenges.

    - The mountain: the protagonist solves increasingly larger problems before reaching the grand finale.

    Here you can follow the same pattern as in the previous case, just add more challenges. However, you must ensure that the ending is sensational.

    - Sparkles: author Nancy Duarte popularized this structure, which can be considered the binary code of storytelling, zeros and ones. The narrator moves between the real world (the 0) and the ideal world the audience imagines (the 1). By contrasting both, a deep emotional connection with the audience is achieved. It’s a very effective technique.

    - The false start: you prepare the audience for what seems to be a very normal story and suddenly, you go back to the beginning and give it a radical twist.

    This method is very striking, but we advise you to master the art of storytelling before using it.

    Share your story

    There’s no secret or magic recipe here; the only way for everything to go well when you stand in front of your audience (one person or 100, it doesn’t matter) is to practice, practice, and practice. And not just any way, as it’s useless to memorize the story and just “spill it out”. You have to put passion, intention, purpose. Take note:

    - Before you start, think about what you want to achieve with your pitch, how you want your listener to feel when they hear it. This will help you put the right intention and tone into your words.

    - Once you have your story perfectly organized and polished, it will stay in your memory. Only write down the key points in your supporting presentation so you don’t forget the important parts and tell it as if you were explaining it to your family, without memorizing it word for word. The pitch should be natural, not forced.

    - Don’t be afraid to exaggerate your emotions (but don’t overdo it), as if you were an actor on stage, in the essential moments of the speech, you’ll make it memorable.

    - Use non-verbal language to your advantage: if you “believe” in your story, it will be much easier for your gestures to accompany your speech, and therefore, it will be more convincing.

    - To increase the power of your story, consider using an object or performing an action related to the idea you want to convey. Will your project end drought? Grab a bottle of water. Will it help people with visual impairments? If you can, turn off the lights in the room for a moment.

    - Record yourself with your smartphone and review your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll find that each time is better than the last!

    And now… let’s practice!


    Acumen Academy: Storytelling for change.

    Photo by Nong on Unsplash.


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