I’m occasionally asked what advice I recommend most frequently when coaching individuals and teams to tell better origin and pitch stories. This is far from an exclusive list (nor is it necessarily in order), although here is the top five…
1) Break the time frame
Stories come in three parts:
But they don’t have to appear in this order.
I often hear origin stories that begin: ‘We launched the business in 2009,’ or similar. It makes temporal sense but not story sense, as it doesn’t grab attention.
Try opening with the struggle. ‘In 2014 our business hit a crisis that meant we had a crucial decision to make…’ Whatever comes next, I guarantee your audience will listen. You can move to the trigger event if you want and pick the story up from there.
2) Develop an ‘active question’.
If you don’t have an active question then you don’t have a story. An active question is the hook that draws attention at the beginning of the narrative. Movies engage by provoking curiosity and then maintaining it until the end of the film (How will Bond triumph? Will the couple get together? Who killed the president?).
It’s important that pitch stories and origin stories follow the same principle. If there’s no active question then there’s likely to be less audience engagement.
Breaking the time frame will develop an active question (which choice solved the crisis in example1?) but it isn’t the only way to do so. Other methods include:
- Open with an insight.
- Name you story’s theme up front.
- Open with a parallel story.
- State your intention.