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The Best Story Wins

Part 2 of 2

Author:Bess Gallanis

Date Created: February 10th 2011
Last Updated: June 14th 2012


See Also:

The Best Story Wins, Part 1 of 2


Bess Gallanis on Indezine






Bess GallanisBess Gallanis is the founder of Speaking with Power and Persuasion, an executive communications consulting firm based in Chicago. She is a communication coach, speaker, journalist, a student of yoga and insight meditation and the author of Yoga Chick (Warner Books, 2006). For more than 25 years, public and private company CEOs, senior executives, portfolio managers and financial advisors have sought out Bess to help them develop their leadership voice and to make an impact through skillful communications. She prepares clients for high stakes presentations, media interviews and sensitive conversations. Bess draws from the universal wisdom of yoga and insight meditation as a model for Presentation Yoga, which emphasizes leadership from within, personal authenticity and storytelling.

Last night I watched “The Social Network” and this morning I rewrote this post. What does “The Social Network”, a fictionalized movie about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, have in common with business storytelling?

The movie’s creators did not intend “The Social Network” as a literal biography of Mark Zuckerberg, the real person. The movie is a mythological creation story, retold for our times. Myths are shared cultural stories, generally regarded as the truth about a remote past. Facebook was The Big Bang of social networking, giving birth to an entirely new digital world and with it, a new kind of social contract.

The world of Facebook may have been new, but since the beginning of time, innovation and success have bred envy and jealousy. His Facebook co-founder and two Harvard classmates sued Zuckerberg, both the real and the fictional man, simultaneously. The movie’s lead character, the fictional Mark Zuckerberg, is an archetype. As his lawyer in the movie tells a naïve and bewildered Zuckerberg: “Every creation myth needs a bad guy.”

“The Social Network” brings into sharp relief the type of market forces that are driving innovations in business communication -- in both form and function.

A new generation of executives sees that to connect and engage with stakeholders, they need a compelling narrative that can be heard and understood by a diverse, global audience. They also need the skills to communicate across multiple media channels -- text, audio, video and images.  

The form for this new challenge is storytelling. Effective leaders know that the best stories win -- people’s hearts, minds and commitment.

To take an idea from concept to story, follow a logical and methodical process: 

  1. Start with SOCO. To make an impact, make a point: a single, overriding communications objective. Build your story, develop your story and resolve your story around a SOCO.

  2. Build on a classic foundation. This classical story structure, whatever its form, must appeal to three human senses:

      • Logos/logic: your story must be logical and demonstrate common sense
      • Ethos/credibility: the storyteller must be trustworthy the story credible
      • Pathos/emotional: the story must touch people’s emotions
  3. Follow the Rule of Three. Why is the three pairing so pervasive in communication? Pattern recognition. Design the progression of your story using the rule of three:

      • Your story needs a beginning, middle and end
      • Your story should create tension, build tension, and finally resolve tension
      • To increase audience retention, recognize, layer and repeat. In other words:

        1. Tell them what you’re going to tell them
        2. Tell the story and
        3. Repeat the key points that support your SOCO
  4. Model your story on a classical myth or archetypal character. Certain types of stories have endured to tell universal truths, to explain how the world works and to reveal us to ourselves. Cultures may differ in their specific mythologies but the underlying truths are the same. In his 2009 TED talk, “The Myths That Mystify,” Devdutt Pattanaik engages the audience with stories that illustrate how mythology shapes a cultural identity, and how this insight can lead to greater understanding and better communication in the workplace.

    Mythological stories and archetypal characters surround us in film, books, television, music, theatre, dance, and art. Three well known archetypes lend themselves to business stories:

    1. The Hero’s SOCO: Save the world.

      • Create tension: The Hero is called to a quest or a challenge.
      • Build tension: The Hero must choose between his destiny and failure.
      • Release tension: The Hero meets his destiny by going to battle for an honorable cause.
      • Think Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker.
    2. The Rebel’s SOCO: Change the world.

      • Create tension: The Rebel rejects the status quo.
      • Build tension: The Rebel reveals himself to be a visionary who drives us into the future.
      • Release tension: The Rebel’s work transforms the world.
      • Think Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg.
    3. The Detective’s SOCO: Make your life better.

      • Create tension: The Detective sees a puzzling problem that has defied a solution.
      • Build tension: The Detective sets out on a journey of discovery, seeking to simplify the complex.
      • Release tension: Creative thinking leads to an innovative solution.
      • Think Google.
  5. Use PowerPoint to enhance storytelling.

PowerPoint is a great tool to organize and present data, but this format doesn’t do much to help the audience process that information. Generally, the point of storytelling is used to help the audience process information, come to a conclusion or to make a decision. Richard E. Mayer, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of California, conducts research around educational psychology.

To design a powerful PowerPoint presentation, follow these principles that emerged from professor Mayer’s research about how people learn:

      • Multimedia principle, in which people learn better from words and pictures than from words alone
      • Coherence principle, in which people learn better when extraneous material is excluded rather than included
      • Contiguity principle, in which people learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented at the same time or next to each other on the screen
      • Modality principle, in which people learn better from animation with spoken text than animation with printed text
      • Signaling principle, in which people learn better when the material is organized with clear outlines
      • Using a conversational style rather than formal style.

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