inCredible Messages Blog

How to Tell a Killer Business Story: The 25% Rule

To have an impact, business stories need to “move” for the listener just as any other stories do.  Yet, most business stories are flat.  As a listener, you know what happened, but you don’t feel engaged or connected to the story.  You are an observer, not a participant.

If you want a story to “move,” you need to have a least a portion of the story take place in the present rather than in the past.  Imagine, for example, that I’m telling a story about a customer service hero in an organization.  I want the story to capture listeners  and move them to heroism too.

Let’s imagine my hero took action “above and beyond” during a weather emergency.  His flight was canceled during a snow storm.  Rather than inform the client he couldn’t come until the airports were re-opened, the service professional rented a car and drove to the client site.

If I tell the story in the past the tense, it’s flat and monotone.  If, however, I SHOW the service professional debating pros and cons in his internal monologue and deciding to rent the car, I’ve added drama and variety to the story.

According to Doug Stevenson, creator of the Story Theater Method, approximately 20-25% of a story should be told in present tense, even acted out.  In other words, the storyteller should be “in the moment” for that portion of the story.  According to Stevenson, try this at junctures in the story where there is action, reaction, and interaction.

You don’t have to be an actor to make this work.  For instance, when the service professional finds out his flight is cancelled, you can show his reaction in your facial expressions.  You can show the interaction (diaglogue) between him and the airline representative by shifting your body back and forth.  There’s no need to be overdramatic.  Just show the action happening in so the audience can participate.

The next time you tell a business story (or any other), give the 25% rule a try.  It will make a world of difference in how your audience receives your story.


Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Multipurpose Content.


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