Stories are sticky. As illustrations of your ideas, stories can embed memorable images in your listeners’ minds. Used as analogies, they can deepen understanding of your key points.And if you share stories from your personal experience, people will feel they know you better, and that can bolster trust.
But in a business setting, stories must be short, and have a point.
How can speakers easily craft concise and effective stories, and incorporate them into a business talk, without rambling?
The 4Cs Story Template is one solution. It’s a structure that includes four essential story elements: Context, Character, Conflict, and Conclusion.
- Set the scene. Where and when does this story take place?
- Describe the people in some visual detail, but also bring them alive by giving them voice. Quote them directly, taking on a different voice from your own.
- Zero in on the conflict to get to the heart of your story. Is it a conflict of ideas or of people? Is your main character encountering obstacles?
- Why are you telling this story? State the point directly, so it’s clear this story is not just for entertainment, it is to make a point.
Here is an example used by a team leader to introduce a problem-solving session:
When I was a kid, you could go to the movies for 50 cents. My mother would give me two quarters and drop me off to meet my friends at the theater. We’d sit in the front row of the balcony, watching cartoons and B grade Westerns, with our feet up on the balcony railing. (Context)
One Saturday, we watched 3 cowboys staggering through the desert, heat waves wafting up from the sand, their one canteen finally empty. Water mirages appeared, then disappeared. Their horses collapsed, one man died. Totally involved, and desperate to figure out a way to get them some water, I leaned over the railing and yelled, top volume, at the screen, “Spit! Spit in him!” - before my mortified friends pulled me back into my seat. (Character and Conflict)
So maybe it won’t surprise you if I say I am one who thrives on finding creative solutions to seemingly impossible challenges! And today, we are facing an urgent challenge that will require all of us to become creative problem solvers. (Conclusion)
Stories can complement data and explanations to more fully engage your listeners’ minds and hearts. But time is limited in business. Use the 4Cs Story Template to craft stories that are short, and to the point.