Storytelling: definition, structure, 10 tips + 3 examples

Content is king – no success without content. But content is a purely technical term – soulless, bloodless. Storytelling is missing. Text alone does not touch or move anyone. Stories on the other hand do. Storytelling is the oldest form of sharing experiences, emotions and information. We tell each other what we have experienced, what challenges we have faced, how we have solved them. All this is already storytelling. But to tell stories, by word, picture or film, that inspire so much that they are immediately retold and shared – that is a small art. How to learn the art of storytelling…

Storytelling: definition, structure, 10 tips + 3 examples

➠ Content: What you can expect

Definition: What is Storytelling?

Since the beginning of time, people have told each other stories. In these stories..

  • Knowledge passed on, shared as well as transferred
  • Conveys values and norms.

Storytelling is art of telling a really good story, That captivates the listener and recipient, arouses emotions in them, and leaves a lasting impression. Various linguistic means are used to achieve the greatest effect.

Advantages and benefits of storytelling

Various studies, for example from brain research, show that information is absorbed particularly well and willingly when several senses are involved in the process. not only hearing or seeing, but also the heart and thus the emotional level. A figurative language, a lively narrator, many impressive emotions – all this favors that we remember the heard for a long time and with pleasure. And mostly tell about it further.

Storytelling is a method in marketing and advertising. But other areas also benefit from good storytelling: It helps the salesperson and supplier to inspire customers for his product; the boss to motivate his team and the applicant to convince the personnel manager. The ability to tell a good story is crucial in communication.

Storytelling: structure and dramaturgy

The content – i.e. the often invoked content – can vary greatly. Good stories in storytelling almost always follow the same rules, a typical dramaturgy. The reader listener or viewer should remain attentive and active. This is how storytelling makes the recipient literally glued to the lips of the teller.

This arc of suspense is essential and is built up continuously from the first moment – until the end. The structure of a working story ideally consists of five classic elements:

  1. An emotionally significant Initial situation.
  2. A (sympathetic) Main character.
  3. Conflicts and obstacles, that the main character must overcome.
  4. A recognizable Development (before and after effect).
  5. And a Highlight, If possible, a conclusion that can be applied to one’s own life – the moral of the story.

Correctly structured and well told, this structure not only attracts more attention, but also creates a sense of connection and identification with what is happening. The listener puts himself in the situation, feels it and sees things from the protagonist’s perspective.

Storytelling in marketing: how companies use stories

In recent years, many companies have realized how great the effect of good storytelling can be – especially for marketing and the external impact of a company. Emotions aroused by storytelling have a much stronger effect than any advertising promise. Companies score not only with quality. If storytelling is used correctly in marketing, customers immediately associate a certain positive feeling with a brand. It provides not only recognition value, but an opportunity for identification.

Another example shows that companies should not underestimate the effects of storytelling. Film student Eugen Merher shot a commercial for the Adidas company during his studies – but they rejected it twice. A mistake, as it turned out, because the storytelling commercial about a runner in his old age now has almost 15 million clicks and, in the form of a story, conveys precisely the emotions of motivation and passion that a sporting goods manufacturer desires.

Learning storytelling: 10 tips for telling good stories

Not everyone is a born storyteller or can tell emotionally charged stories like a marketing department. But the art can be learned and improved. This is how you can become a better speaker yourself or optimize your content marketing strategies. Because here, too, a good story is always the basis.

You can learn storytelling with the following tips:

Learn from the best

In the field of storytelling, there are not only experts, but outstanding storytellers. This can involve politicians, but there is also a lot to learn about storytelling from successful company founders.

Watch videos of presentations and pay attention to how the best storytellers build and tell their stories. You can take a lot from this for your own implementation.

Know the reason for your story

What is your message? What do you want your audience to take away with them?? These are the questions you should answer so that your story does not remain just a hollow string of words.

Storytelling is not just about the story, but about the information and emotions it conveys – and you need to know these beforehand. Be clear in advance about your punch line and the message you want to convey to the listener.

Tell authentic stories

Your story should be authentic. It should reflect your personality and values. Don’t try to pretend, because the audience will notice sooner rather than later.

Only if you appear credible, you can reach other people. A contrived facade does not arouse positive emotions, but only skepticism and caution.

Make yourself vulnerable

To tell a good story, you need to reveal something about yourself. Share your fears and concerns with the audience. This is the only way to give your audience a chance to identify with the situation emotionally as well. Even if it takes courage: Remember that no one can identify with a perfect human being.

The listener must find himself – at least to some extent – in your story. Otherwise, storytelling may be a nice anecdote, but emotions remain untouched.

Speak to the heart of the audience

Whether they laugh, cry or scream out in rage, it’s important that the story engages the audience. Feelings connect the audience. People who laugh together feel connected to their neighbors for a short moment.

When building and preparing your story, be aware of the emotional needs of your audience. What emotions do you want to appeal to? How do you achieve this with your storytelling?

Appeal to the audience’s mind as well

At the same time, the story must also be thought-provoking. It offers insights, orientation, and, at best, a big "aha" moment. It’s these insights that the listener takes home and makes them want to retell what they’ve heard ("Would you have known that…?").

Typically, these suggestions form the end of the storytelling, but you need to be clear from the beginning about how to build tension to achieve the greatest effect in the punchline.

Pick up your audience

A good storyteller picks up his listeners at eye level. He must convey empathy and show: I know you and your situation. Ideally, this should happen right with the introduction. That’s why it’s also so important to know your audience and think about who you’re telling the story to.

What does the public already know? What it would like to know? Otherwise, two scenarios loom: You give information that all listeners already know – boredom ensues. Or you assume knowledge that the audience lacks – and no one can follow your story.

Fulfill your promise

Nothing is worse than not meeting the expectations of your audience. If you ask a question or want to explain a problem, there is hardly anything more frustrating for the listener than not getting the answer in the end.

The audience gives you time to tell your story. Avoid giving the listener the impression that this time was wasted.

Let the audience participate in the story

Striking stories always have an interactive structure and allow the listener or viewer to become part of the action (at least in thought). Sure, by doing this you give up some control, but you gain a listener who can better empathize and identify with the situation.

Even small questions can be enough. When the protagonist of the story is faced with a choice, ask openly to the audience, "What do you think his decision was??" or "And what would you have chosen to do??"You do not have to start a dialogue, but your audience will be involved, will see themselves in the story and will be more emotionally involved.

Score at the end

After a long build-up and a nice arc of suspense, the grand finale remains. Especially for the end there are a few additional tricks. Because this one has to sit: It’s best remembered and, of course, it’s the highlight of any story – the punch line:

  • The jigsaw plot
    First describe many interwoven puzzles, which you solve one by one over time to develop a coherent whole. For the audience, this creates the greatest possible "aha" effect. Think, for example, of the movie "The Da Vinci Code".
  • The plot twist
    Your story seems to be going in a clear direction – but you are deliberately leading the listener down the wrong path. Then, at the end, comes the unexpected twist. Used correctly, such endings are particularly impressive and memorable.
  • The Network Plot
    Even if their actors in the story initially seem to have nothing in common with each other – there is still at least one connection. You work this out successively, and the tension rises continuously.
  • The Triumph Plot
    Describe how you yourself or your protagonist had to overcome countless resistances, skeptics, adversaries, intriguers, enemies – and in the end you were right and successful. Everyone loves the late triumph because it seems so fair.

A plot that works, however, can also look like a Joke can be constructed. So by taking a structured (short) narrative to an unexpected outcome for the reader or listener – the trick.

Examples of storytelling stories

After a lot of theory, finally some practice: We have listed some examples of storytelling. These can inspire you and show you what matters in a well-told story:

Example: story about dealing with people

During the first weeks at the university, the professor handed out a questionnaire to his students. It was a kind of quiz about their motivation to study here, mixed with some questions about the university itself. Only the last question was out of the ordinary: "What is the first name of the woman who regularly cleans this lecture hall??" In fact, hardly anyone could answer the question. While most of the students had seen the cleaning lady a few times, knew she was around 50, had dark hair and a Spanish accent. But no one knew her name. As well as? No one had ever exchanged a word with her. So most of them left the answer field to this question blank (some at least tried chutzpah and wrote down a guessed name).

When everyone turned in the questionnaire, one of the students took heart and addressed the professor directly on this question, "Will this question affect your overall grade at the end of the semester??", he wanted to know. "Absolutely," the professor answered and explained why: "You’ll meet a lot of people in your career. And all of them will be very important. And I really mean ALL. Every single one of them deserves your attention, your attention – or at least a smile."

The student never forgot this lesson – just as he never forgot the name of the cleaning lady, which he inquired about shortly thereafter. Her name was Dorothy.

You too may not soon forget this anecdote. And that’s the point: good stories can inspire, captivate and carry people away. You can get people to follow the storyteller and take action. You can breathe life into cold, bare numbers.

Accordingly, this could also be a Lecture begin:

Ladies and gentlemen, you probably expect me to give a lecture now. But the truth is: I’m not much of a talker. Instead, I will tell you a story. A true story that happened just like this recently…

At the latest now you will be able to hear the falling pins in the room. The audience will be as quiet as mice and literally glued to the lips of the modest speaker, who is admittedly very much a talent. Because it does it just right. Storytelling turns a story into much more than just text.

All the examples, after all, show what makes a good story and a compelling storyteller…

Example: Dropbox founder’s recipe for success

Dropbox founder Drew Houston once told a wonderful story in an interview with the New York Times, which he claimed was the recipe for his life’s success. It consists of three parts. Houston tells it that way:

When today shoving a cheat sheet at my 22-year-old self could contain: a tennis ball, a circle and the number 30.000:

The Tennis ball Stands for something you’re infatuated with, something you’re passionate about. The tennis ball reminds me of my dog. He always goes crazy when I play with him and throw the ball. It’s comparable to the most successful entrepreneurs I know: they also all have something they are literally obsessed with. Something they are really passionate about.

The Circle In turn, I want them to remind me of my closest friends. You are the average of your five closest friends. So you should also make sure you surround yourself with people who want the best for you and get the best out of you.

The Number 30.000 finally makes me realize that most people only have about 30.000 days of life. When we think about this number, we realize that we have to take advantage of every single day that life gives us and make the most of these 30 days.000 days out.

Example: Storytelling is more powerful than content marketing

For the board meeting of an international corporation, members were invited to one of the finest and most expensive restaurants in town. It was in close proximity to the company’s headquarters, so the board members showed up on time and in good spirits, chatted a bit over champagne, and finally took their seats at the luxuriously set table. Everyone was looking forward to the legendary menu of the local star chef. But it did not come to that.

More and more homeless people gathered outside. They peered through the windows, pressed their dusty noses against them and knocked obtrusively on the windows.

The clatter grew louder and was soon mixed with chanting. A leisurely meal was out of the question, and more and more bosses wondered what the host would do about it: Would he ignore the bums or call the police? None of this happened.

Instead, he opened the door and let the pack in. The people smelled like an incident in a chemical plant. But above all they were hungry. To the great horror of the board members, the CEO invited them to the table. The round was extended and the strangers fell over the first two aisles like there was no tomorrow.

Afterwards, however, they did not disappear, but insulted the managers: "How can you stuff yourselves with lobster, foie gras and champagne every day while we are starving?? The board members tried to maintain their composure.

They tried to defend themselves, saying that they were executives of a large corporation and had a lot of responsibility. It didn’t convince the homeless. The managers became increasingly defensive.

Finally the host broke off the farce. He explained to his dumbfounded colleagues that the vagrants were actually actors, hired to prepare everyone for the only item on today’s agenda: corporate social responsibility.

The incident is said to have actually happened like this. True or not, however, is irrelevant: the anecdote teaches two things:

  • People are through practical Experiences much easier to convince than through theoretical arguments or Content.
  • Insights become much more vivid for everyone if you add to it a Story told.

Example: A lesson about a short sale

Young Bill wants to get rich with his own ranch. So he buys a horse from a farmer. He pays the farmer $100, who in turn promises to deliver the horse the next day. But it turns out differently: The next day, the farmer gives Bill only bad news: The poor animal died during the night.

In response, Bill says, "No problem. Just give me my money back!" But the farmer denies: "I already spent the money on fertilizer yesterday."Bill thinks about it for a moment and then says: "Then at least give me back the dead horse. I want to raffle it!"The farmer is completely confused: "You can’t raffle off a dead horse!", he wonders. "Yes, yes it is," says Bill, "I just don’t tell anyone it’s dead yet…"

Months later, Bill and the farmer run into each other. The farmer immediately notices the fine clothes and obvious wealth of Bill. "And?!", he asks curiously, "how did it go with the raffle of the carcass??" Bill grins: "Tip! I sold over 500 tickets at $2 each and made nearly $1,000 in profit."The farmer shakes his head: "But weren’t there any complaints about the dead horse??" Bill grins even wider "Yes, the winner did complain," says Bill. "But I just gave him his $2 back."

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