The Harvard Business Review is not the first place you’d go to for advice on telling stories, but that is exactly where I found a great article by Peter Guber. Guber is a long-time movie producer whose credits range from Flashdance to Rainman, Batman Returns to Tango & Cash, so he’s not exactly your usual HBR management geek. As an executive producer, he’s someone who's had to make the call on whether a story works or doesn’t, so his article struck a chord with me. His ideas aren’t based on abstract theory, but on whether real live people are going to shell out cash for your story.
Guber’s article is behind a subscription wall, but I think his four truths about what makes a great story are useful whether you are pitching an idea for a website, reporting results to the Board or inspiring staff to work up to the next level.
- Truth to the teller. Yes, authenticity again. Show and share who you are with an open heart.
- Truth to the audience. It’s Value for Time. They give you their time on the understanding that you will give them emotional value and personal insight.
- Truth to the moment. Be prepared and then – improvise. The preparation will ensure you don’t lose focus. The improvisation will make sure you don’t lose your audience!
- Truth to the mission. Don’t even try to inspire people to do something you don’t believe in yourself. They won’t believe in it either.
In sisomo, I had 12 ideas about what makes a great story.
- Great stories touch us. They connect with our own desires and experiences and what we care about.
- Great stories are contagious. The itch to pass on a great story is almost unbearable. Stories have to be shared.
- Great stories are cloaked in credibility. They make practical sense, intuitive sense, emotional sense.
- Great stories connect with the emotions. Genuine, compelling emotion drives every story.
- Great stories surprise and delight. They are infinitely capable of the unexpected. It’s not just about novelty and revelations but also creativity and emotional truth.
- Great stories have context. Whether it’s a fairy tale or a business lesson, stories weave facts and events together so we understand their larger meanings.
- Great stories are fast workers. They get in ahead of our rationalizations and logic with their own compelling truth.
- Great stories are crafted. We all like stories to be recounted with skill and effort.
- Great stories make us laugh. Humor disarms us and opens us up to new ideas.
- Great stories teach us to be smart. Through great stories we learn to spot disinformation in an instant. Shoddy stories reinforce prejudice and hide the truth.
- Great stories introduce us to great characters; people we want to spend time with.
- Great stories open us up to other worlds. Welcome to the world of the imagination, to new geographies, to new realities.