Two stories are critically important if you want your idea to catch on with your audience: the story of what is, and the story of what could be.

Nancy Duarte talks about these in her wonderful book, Resonate. In The Secret Language of Leadership, Stephen Denning calls them the story to get attention and the springboard story.

First, the audience needs to have an experience of how things are now and why that’s unsatisfactory. They need to feel it. That’s why a story is effective. It’s the next best thing to experiencing it themselves. (Of course, if you can provide the real experience for them, that’s even better.)

It’s no good saying, “Our customer service requests currently take too long to resolve.” Nobody feels the pain of that. Instead, talk about a particular customer. Who are they and what were they trying to do? Why was it important to them? Follow the sequence of events from lodging the service call to eventual resolution (or non-resolution). What angst did the customer feel while that was happening? What opportunities did they miss because of the extended delay?

Important note: you might have to go speak face-to-face with a real person to get this kind of information. You won’t get it from a survey. Coffee often works though.

Second, contrast that with a story of what could be. If you are a marvellous orator, you may be able to paint this picture out of thin air. A much more effective and much easier method, however, is to find a real example where something similar to your idea is already working.

This story lets the audience experience what things could be like in the future world you’d like to bring about, through the eyes of someone who is already there. They begin to think, “What if I could do that?” or “What if we could do that here?” And that’s how ideas catch on.

If you need help in crafting the narrative for your strategy, plan or idea, drop me a line. It’s what I do. I’d love to help your organisation reap the value of truly connecting with your stakeholders.