The four elements of a successful story

story Jan 10, 2021
How stories touch parts of the brain that facts miss

We are all besieged, bombarded and bewildered by information. So how do we get people to pay attention to our important information? Especially if most of our information is data, facts and stats.

The answer is simple. One word, in fact: story. Stories will make our data, facts and stats memorable.

Research shows we forget facts and data; but we remember stories. That’s because pure data and facts only activate the language processing part of our brain… so we understand the facts intellectually, but the facts don’t touch any other important parts of the brain. We understand, but we don’t feel anything.

Stories, on the other hand, activate our whole brain, because there is an emotional element in story. So we feel something and we extract meaning from that feeling. That makes us remember story.

When you wrap your facts in a story, the audience is moved both intellectually and emotionally. So your story will stick.

How do you write or tell a story? There are 4 simple elements for a good story:

  1. Hero: Who is the hero, the central character, of your story? Is it you? Your client? Your product?
  2. Goal: What is the goal of the hero, or the journey the hero is on? Is it peace of mind? Data security? Increased productivity or higher profits? Initiating change?
  3. Hinderers: Who or what makes life hard for the hero? What are the obstacles, the threats as the hero journeys toward the goal? Are they internal threats? External threats? Lack of awareness? Lack of resources? Stories need tension. They need conflict. Part of the power of story is how it encourages us to relate to the hero’s efforts to overcome the obstacles. So there have to be obstacles in a well told story.
  4. Helpers: Who or what is helping the hero achieve his/her goal? A new program? The skill or enthusiasm of your employees? Technological innovation?

Wrapping your data in stories will make them stick. Behavioural research shows that stories are powerful because they give meaning.

Those who tell the best stories become the best leaders.