Stories are great content - or at least the good ones are.  Telling stories should be one of your principal tools to bring messages to life.  

Not because we say so, but because this is how you infiltrate the brains of your target audience and install content that continues to deliver your message, long after the presentation or conversation has ended.

Think of the stories told to you, decades ago, perhaps by a parent, a teacher or coach, that have stayed with you.  Think of all the information, the news, the movies, the learning that you’ve been exposed to, and yet, these stories remain inside you and their messages continues to have impact.  

Stories encapsulate and deliver messages.  They are like extended metaphors.  

Aesop, the slave and storyteller who lived in ancient Greece, gave us fables - The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, The Fox and the Crane and The Greedy Dog.  Each story delivers a message in the form of a moral.

Chinese culture has a rich history of proverbs that have stories behind them; stories that deliver a message about how to live well.  The Old Man of the Frontier.  The Fox who took the Tiger’s power.  Old horses know the way.  

Jesus told parables.  Abe Lincoln could spin a terrific yarn.  Ellen Degeneres is a great storyteller.

Novels.  Theatre.  TV dramas and movies take the art to extraordinary heights.  There is no reason you should not access the power of telling stories in your context.    

Good stories are great content for all the reasons that metaphors and images are; they are memorable, they can be visual, emotional and most of all, they help people to understand cause and effect.  

The simplest story-telling structure shows how situation, character and action lead to a result.

As people seem to be fond of acronyms to remember structures, and I want you to remember this one, here’s the acronym.  It’s a STAR.

Situation.
Thinking.
Action.
Result. 

This is the situation. This is what the characters thought, or felt about the situation. This is the action they took and this was the result.  

The fact  that the STAR structure is used in interview technique tells you that these are the things that people want to know about.  Not just the elements of the story, but how do they relate to one another.  How does one element lead to the next and what can we learn from it?  What does it tell us about the nature of reality?  The laws of cause and effect?

The greedy dog, who was carrying a bone in his mouth happened to see his reflection at the edge of the lake.  (Situation)

He thought that, if he took the bone from that dog in the lake, he would have two bones. (Thoughts/feelings)

He snarled at his reflection and lunged for the reflection of his bone (Action) and in doing so, dropped his real bone into the lake, losing it forever (Result).

What do we learn?  The message is that by chasing illusory rewards you risk losing what you already possess.

A stories of personal experience, it could be yours or it could be someone you know, are called anecdotes.  Good anecdotes work because they are relatable.  The audience has a relationship with a character in the story - either you or through you.

The trouble with anecdotes is that they can wander, or they might seem to be an unnecessary indulgence.  What keeps them on track is the STAR structure.

My tertiary education was in the performing arts.  I trained as an actor and found myself writing, directing and producing theatre.  When my wife Annie -  also an actor, writer and director -  when Annie and I were expecting our second child,  I was deeply concerned that our relationship, or the baby’s future, could be undermined by the fickle nature of the acting profession. 

I took a job in sales for a media production company that involved solving organisational problems with corporate videos and websites.  This brought me into intimate contact with organisations with significant technical and commercial competence, but very little insight into the practicalities of interpersonal communication and collaboration.  

So that’s one cycle through the STAR structure.  That result - intimate contact with corporates - now forms the Situation for the next cycle.  

Many of the organisations I was working with were impaired by unhelpful drama, due to a lack of competence in areas in which Annie and I were expert.  

I thought, Annie and I, could make a serious contribution here.  

I quit my job, and we started the business.  We taught communication and collaboration skills.  We performed theatre at conferences, which lead to us producing our own media, and then to put all these modalities to work to achieve significant organisational development impact, we included consulting in the mix.

The result is that after twenty years of experience in the field, we have created a unique organisational development consultancy and a new professional role - the corporate dramatist.  We have worked with the majority of blue chip companies operating in Australia and many abroad.  We are still married and that second child - our daughter - is currently doing honors in Chemistry as part of a science law degree. 

OK. The elements at work in that story.  Being personal it’s relatable.  We may share the same concerns about needing to provide for a family, or making a contribution.  

But there was also something different.  Applying the disciplines of drama to organisational performance.  

There was risk.  There was action.  And you might notice that in the result part,  I answered the question poised in the first Situation part, about my concerns for my relationship and the future of our daughter.   

So that’s an approach to purposeful storytelling.  The best way to build competence is to try it.  

You know how the STAR structure works. Over to you.

Watch David’s Brain-Friendly Channel Session

When: Mar 31 2022 7PM GMT+11
Hosted: Silvia Damiano, Founder, About my Brain Institute
Guest: David McCubbin, Founder & CEO ‘coup’

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Our session will be streamed live on our YouTube ChannelLinkedIn & Facebook! This is an interactive session, feel free to connect with us and ask any questions!

This session will be presented in English. Captions with auto-translate to a language of your choice will be available in our YouTube Channel 72 hours after the event.

David McCubbin

David McCubbin

David is a corporate dramatist who helps business leaders get their story.

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