What is a story?
In business, a story is a joined-up series of messages.
It’s not “Once upon a time” or “Three men walked into a pub.” You don’t have to become something you’re not. This is about structure.
In TV we spent huge amounts of time thinking about the best way to tell a story. Stories can be told lots of ways, and one of the things you get paid for in TV is working out the best way.
Of course the producer at the next desk will tell you after there was a better way, but that’s TV people…
How to structure
The vital ingredient is to start with a story. If you want to work out how to tell a story then it is absolutely vital to know what the story is. Which is the first point many people fall down.
Let’s say you are a constructor, bidding to build a £100m building. You know what the story is, right? The story is – you want to win this job.
Wrong. That’s the objective.
The TV equivalent is to say, this story is about filling 90 seconds of airtime.
We have a process when starting bids which works through the needs of the client, matches those to our strengths, identifies our win themes, but then we challenge the team with a question.
When we win this, after many meetings and an accumulated thousands of hours of work, the client will be able to answer this question in a single sentence…
Why did you chose ConstructCo?
Somewhere in our win themes and the answer to this question is our story.
It often isn’t earth-shattering. Construction is an industry where efficiency of delivery is at high level, margins are tight, and differentiators are often hard to find.
So this is a real-life story:
A complex project where the client wanted a keen price but was most worried about delivery. We had a whole team that were just completing a project successfully for the same client.
The answer to the question “Why did you chose ConstructCo?” was, “Right price, and we got a successful team we knew how to work with.”
So now we have a story. How does that turn into a structure?
It’s not hard to start working out what we are going to be talking about. We will try to “kill” the price issue. We don’t think we have to be the cheapest, but we have a successful project to point to.
But the main thrust is about confidence of delivery. Their nervousness about the complexity of the project is where we are strongest. So our theme is confidence of delivery.
‘Confidence of Delivery’ Story
To be confident of delivery you need:
The right team. (Evidence our team is right and available)
The right methodology (Our ideas)
The right price (Evidence of delivery at price)
NOTE: A story is joined-up. A good structure should help you tell your story in a joined-up way. First you must have the right team, then you must get the right method, then you want the right price.
The opposite of a story is a list. Many, many dull, unmemorable presentations are lists. They have no logic, no flow, no story. All the stuff is there, but it has no shape.
That’s the story, and within that we are going to make sure we hit all our positive messages again and again, but there is one last stage.
Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them again.
It isn’t rocket science. Repetition of your core messages is fundamental to the audience being clear what you are saying and fundamental to their retention of your messages.
So you will open with your core messages, go into detail, and close with the same things you said at the beginning.
Now add some “you”
That isn’t the end of the story. This is about structure, and structure is the framework that you put the beautiful details on. There are a million ways for you to add something great to what you say. Work really hard at that, but now you are hanging the bells and whistles on something really solid.