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ATD Blog

Storytelling to Captivate, Engage, and Influence

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

All great leaders are great storytellers, and all great communicators understand the power of narrative. For anyone who wants to impact an audience and influence others, the ability to tell a great story is crucial.

Stories can serve as springboards to communicate new strategies, structures, policies, identities, and goals. A good story can help you personalize the information you are trying to convey and can help you build rapport, establish trust, overcome objections, communicate value, and demonstrate results.

When delivered effectively, a story resonates emotionally with a listener and impacts the way they think or feel about a subject. The story should also connect to what they already feel is important to them—what they want or need.

Great stories take a listener on a journey. Along the way, they should learn something new, feel something genuine, or experience something memorable.

There are five types of stories every leader and talent development professional should utilize to impact audiences:

The Origin Story
This story provides a window into why, how, and where it all started, either for you personally in your given field or for the company, along with its values and priorities.


The Value Story
The purpose of this story is to generate excitement and develop trust by clearly establishing the value your company has delivered for clients or customers in the past and how the work you do benefits your customers, the community, or society.

The Crucible Story
This story describes a challenge or demanding situation your company has encountered and how it was adapted to and overcome. These stories show flexibility, resilience, and tenacity—traits a customer or prospective client will admire.

The Solution Story
This story demonstrates how your organization identified a problem or customer need and addressed it using your products, services, or expertise.


The Pie-in-the-Face Story
This story reveals how you or your company made a mistake or fell short, how that shaped you or the company, and the lessons that were learned.

Incorporate these tips for delivering an effective business story:

  • Identify the takeaway first. As with any communication, figure out the objective you are pursuing as a result of telling the listener your story. Always keep your audience in mind.
  • Use clear intentions. Once your purpose for the story has been identified, choose active intentions—strong one-word verbs like inspire, motivate, engage, and so on—for a congruent delivery.
  • Don’t make yourself the hero. The story is not about you (even if it actually is about you). You are telling the story for the benefit of the listener—to make them feel something, learn something, or do something. Put the focus (and the benefit) on them.
  • Appeal to emotion. While facts are important, people are often driven to make decisions based upon emotion. If your story can generate a feeling with the listener, they will more easily be engaged and persuaded.
  • Keep it simple. Tell the story in the least amount of words possible and use simple language. A business narrative should last no more than three to five minutes.
  • Drive your main point home. Clearly remind the audience why you told them the story. State the moral or lesson you want them to take away, so the story resonates with impact.

Steve Jobs once said, “The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values, and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.” Anyone working in today’s business environment can benefit from using storytelling as a communication tool.

We all possess myriad stories based on our life experiences. We can share these stories to inspire or enlighten others. As you sharpen and refine your storytelling abilities, seek out the stories of others, especially those passed down from bosses or co-workers within your organization. Collect stories and get comfortable sharing them. Every story you tell is a gift, as is every story shared with you by others.

Want to learn more? Join me at the ATD 2019 International Conference & Exposition for the session, Captivate, Engage, and Influence: Storytelling Lessons From “The Walking Dead”.

About the Author

G. Riley (Gary) Mills is the co-founder of Pinnacle Performance Company and co-author of The Pin Drop Principle. He has taught effective communication to executives and CEOs in more than 30 countries. He has guest-lectured or delivered keynotes at such events and institutions as the ATD International Conference & Exposition, Columbia University, London Chamber of Commerce, New York University, Young Presidents' Organization, Cox School of Business, Southern Methodist University, Learning and Skills Conference (London), SHRM (regional chapters), Singapore Management University, and Manchester United. He also co-founded a nonprofit company called The Bookwallah Organization, whose sole mission is to collect storybooks, set up libraries, and promote literacy in orphanages around the world.

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Amazing stuff. Try implementing this at!
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