Storytelling for non-storytellers

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —May 12, 2010
Filed in Business storytelling


Troy White has just posted a blog which I think is both very good because it encourages people who don’t think they are storytellers to have a go and practice, yet I feel doesn’t go far enough because there is a chance readers will not get to a story based on his list of triggers. Mind you I think Troy’s story prompters are a great place to start. I would like, however, to make some additions to each one to make doubly sure people tell a story rather than just express their opinion. My additions are in red.

  • Pet Peeves and when was the last time you felt peeved by them
  • Physical Characteristics (Uniqueness) and the times they helped or hindered
  • Core Beliefs and how they unfold in practice
  • Politics – when have you felt angry, let down or felt like giving them a standing ovation?
  • Birthplace – how did you end up being born there?
  • What Are You Pathological About? And where do they emerge? What happened last time?
  • Religion – has there ever been a time or moment where you were truly thankful for your beliefs?
  • Significant Childhood Events
  • Beliefs – have they ever got you in trouble?
  • Hobbies – when have you felt proudest of your hobbies?
  • Education – has your education made a big difference? What happened?
  • Skills – Have you ever had a moment when you were surprised by the skills you have or dismally lack?
  • Interests – What’s your most boring interest and when have you really bored someone with it?
  • Family – What are you most fond of about your family? What’s an example?
  • Talents – Has a talent ever really made a real difference? What happened?
  • Life Events You Remember Most
  • Adventures You Will Never Forget
  • Incompetence At? Share a time when you were a real klutz.
  • Anything You Are A Legend Of? When did your legendom shine?
  • Successes – What are the three most memorable successes you remember? Take us through what happened.
  • Likes – Tell us the last time one of your real likes jumped out and grabbed you?
  • Curiosities – What is the weirdest thing you have ever heard happening?
  • Failures – What’s your biggest stuff up?
  • Dislikes – Have you ever felt repulsed by a dislike? Tell us about it.
  • Are People Amazed By Anything You Do Or About You? If yes, what happened?
  • What Are You Ambitious About? What Fires You Up? When have you been really fired up? What got you going?
  • Self Disciplined About? When have you displayed a monk-like discipline.
  • People Are Envious Of You Because _______? When has someone been envious of you?
  • Do People Desire What You Have? When have people desired what you have?

To get to a story you need to get to a time and a place. When and where questions are good. Asking what happened works. Just asking for an example can work if you can get people to provide a detailed example. Troy’s prompters point us in the right direction for finding our own stories. My additions hopefully will increase the chances that a story will be told.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:


  1. Mike Wagner says:

    Shawn, this is really great.
    I’ll put this out there on twitter; want to enlarge the reach of this post here in Iowa.
    And, I like that this is an improv kind of post.
    Troy started. You built on it. “yes/and” at work!
    Keep creating…and recreating,

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