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Storytelling for a Better Business – Part 2: How to Master Storytelling

There’s a good reason we see a new trending term — storytelling — showing up for businesses heading into 2017. It’s a powerful way to communicate and make your message memorable. Having the right type of story for your audience is a key to good storytelling. In this, part 2 of our series on storytelling for business, we’re looking at how to choose the right kind of story then go about crafting it for the best results possible.

If you missed part 1 of this series you can read it here: The Power of Storytelling

How to master storytelling for business

There is an art to telling great stories. Just knowing your audience and applying the right structure to your presentation can go a long way to improving your message. You don’t need any special skills. Simply learn these basic rules and you’re on your way to becoming a master storyteller.

Keys to a great story

The dramatic structure, also known as Freytag’s pyramid, highlights key areas needed to make a compelling story. This is a time tested method used in plays, films, commercials and public speaking. Applying this methodology to your stories will instantly help to make them more powerful and, most importantly, memorable.


We will take a closer look at applying this structure to a story in part three of this series on storytelling for business.

Types of stories

Choosing the right type of story will depend on your audience and the specific message. In the section below we describe different story types you can use and the benefits of each.

hero's journey

Hero’s Journey

In this story you accept the call to a challenge, entering into the unknown and taking on risk with the hope of reward. You try and fail, only to try again and become a “hero”, then return to the place you began, now better than when you first started.


  • Demonstrate the rewards of taking risks.
  • Show how you learned a lesson and acquired new knowledge.

false start

False Start

Telling a normal story only to reveal something unexpected to the audience before starting the story over again with this altered perspective. Similar to ‘retroactive continuity’ where you may go back and alter previously established ‘facts’ in the story.


  • Telling a story of when you failed and had to start over.
  • Changing your audience’s perspective.
  • Quickly grab the attention of your audience.

story mountain

Story Mountain

A classic story structure: opening, buildup, dilemma, resolution and closing. The buildup and dilemma stages can have many layers for added tension.


  • Tell a story of overcoming a string of challenges.
  • Build tension before revealing a fulfilling conclusion.

in medias res

In medias res

Beginning “in the middle of things” this story opens with the heat of the action before returning to the start, setting the scene and explaining how you arrived at this juncture.


  • Shock the audience into paying attention.
  • Bring focus to a key moment in your story.
  • Keep your audience in suspense.

nested loop

Nested Loops

A story, inside a story, inside a story… An example would be a character in your story tells another story, and a character in that story tells a story and so on. Each nested story should end in the sequence they were introduced, so the first story started is the last to end.


  • Describe how you came to possess some knowledge through a series of interactions.
  • Tell of how you arrived at a conclusion or came to be inspired to achieve something.

converting ideas

Converging Ideas

Tell how multiple stories came together to form a single conclusion.


  • Describe a collaboration between two people.
  • Explain the foundation of a partnership.
  • Show how a relationship came to be.

petal structure

Petal Structure

Tell multiple stories, from one or several speakers, relating to the same central message. Each story can overlap, allowing one to introduce the next, however each should be its own story.


  • Show a connection between multiple stories to reinforce a single message.
  • Allow a group of speakers to discuss a central message.

Finding your story

Thinking of a story to use for your talk can be pretty hard. Sometimes we get lucky and we’re discussing an event that naturally creates its own story. The challenge for me has always been knowing the message first and thinking of a story to go with it.

It’s best to use your own stories. Choosing something that personally happened in your life will help the audience connect with you and the message. There’s nothing wrong with telling a story about someone else, but when it’s possible you should try to pull from your own past.

So, we need to start churning up those memories and finding a story. If it helps you can look through old photos or talk to friends and family for inspiration. I like to review my list of failures, tough times, lucky breaks, and just about any memory that can make me laugh. Eventually you’ll find the right story to capture your audience and deliver the message.

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