The Power of Storytelling

What is a Story?

Whew! It feels great to be blogging again here on Goodreads. It's been almost a year!

I have been busy...writing, painting, running. But now I want to share some knowledge with you all.

Let the Story Do the Work!


Let the Story Do the Work: The Art of Storytelling for Business Success

I recently read this fascinating book about the power of storytelling in the workplace and realized that, since I am a writer, I could use my storytelling skills at work.

I highly recommend this book. It does a great job of showing how to tell the appropriate story to start a business meeting or presentation.


The Story

I recently provided some instruction for a friend who was about to give her very first corporate presentation. She asked me for tips since I had taught presentation at the college level. "Open with a story..." was the first tip I gave her.

After her presentation, she asked for feedback on her presentation (which had been recorded). I gladly gave her a list of things she did well and some things she needed to work on: #1-She didn't open with a story.

And then, it dawned on me that maybe she doesn't know what a story is. I know what a story is because I write them and I tell them. I have also taught how to write and tell stories, so it comes easy to me. But I did what I always tell teachers not to do: I assumed a person understood something, when she did not.

So, what exactly is meant by "telling a story"?

A story is a narrative that takes people on a journey of the mind through a personal (or fictional) experience. So, to tell a story is to take a person on a journey through an experience both real or imagined. In business, it should be a real and personal experience.

What makes a story good?

Now that you know what telling a story is, think of some good and bad stories you've heard. What makes a story good?

Plot- A story must have forward motion. The listener must see that they are about to go somewhere; to do this successfully requires planned structure and an agenda must be apparent. Every part presented must have relevance. Every person or item mentioned must serve a purpose in moving the story forward.

Characters- Yes, even in storytelling at a corporate level, well-rounded and interesting characters play an important role. Characters with flaws, weaknesses, redeeming qualities are a must (even if you're talking about your pets!). Perfect heroes or villains aren't interesting or relatable.

A Familiar Setting- When presenting to co-workers or an unfamiliar group, it's a must to use a setting that is familiar to them. Make sure the setting connects to the audience in some way. If you're speaking to an I.T. group at you work and the setting of your story is a trip to the park for a birthday party, you'd better make some connection to I.T. or you've lost your audience.

Satisfaction- Lastly, your story must have a satisfying ending that transitions seamlessly to the point of your presentation. For instance, if you're presenting to an audience of accountants and you are about to give them results of data analysis for the year, perhaps a funny story about the first time you took and failed the CPA test might make them chuckle and relate to you on a personal level. Connecting that experience to your topic will help the audience feel satisfied. Simply telling a story about a trip to the dentist might make them laugh, but if it's not connected to the topic of your meeting/presentation, you might turn off your audience. That's never a good thing.

Storytelling and Business

What makes storytelling in business important is making that personal connection. I once had a boss who was very serious. She demanded respect as opposed to earning it from her employees. When she led meetings, she started immediately with stating her agenda. I remember only a few meetings that started with a personal story that involved her family. I liked those meetings because the stories had made her seem human and not so robotic. I liked those meetings best because she appeared to be more approachable and relatable.

Another reason to tell a story at the start of a meeting is to build trust. When sharing a personal experience, you gain the trust of your audience. You can present yourself as an overcomer, someone who volunteered for a challenge and maybe failed, but learned a powerful life lesson. Someone in the audience needs to hear your story of overcoming obstacles against all odds. These types of stories inspire and motivate.

One last reason storytelling in business works is because it helps the audience stay focused and retain more information. If they can relate to the message, research suggests the information presented is retained more effectively. On average, an audience pays attention for 3-5 seconds and then moves on to their phone, daydreaming, or doodling on a piece of paper. Make your story personal, fascinating, and relevant, and your audience will pay attention.


Think of how Steve Jobs would stand before his employees and introduce a new product or provide motivation to be creative. Does your boss have the power of storytelling? What about you?

Now is the time! Storytelling in business isn't new, but it is making a comeback. More and more corporations are working hard to develop their own stories. Read their website pages! They want you to know their history:

American Express
Grand Canyon University
John Deere

These are just some corporations with fascinating stories. Read them and learn more about sharing a personal narrative at the corporate level. What about where you work? Do you know your company's history?

Let the Story Do the Work

So, the next time you lead a meeting or presentation at work, dare to share a story. Make sure it is a personal narrative (not someone else's story...), make sure it has a plot (beginning, middle, and satisfying end), a familiar setting, and a satisfying transition to your topic.

It's not easy, but with practice, you can achieve success in storytelling! YOU can have an impact at work in more ways than one.


R. A. Douthitt is an award-winning author of middle grade books. She is currently working on her women's inspirational novel, Leaving Eden, to be release later this year. To learn more about her books, visit her website:
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