How to ensure people hear your story at work

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —February 23, 2014
Filed in Business storytelling


“We don’t have time to hear a story.

Just give us the facts.”

Have you heard that before?

The thing is, it’s simply untrue.

We have all heard ‘facts’ drone on for ages. Yet you can tell a powerful and memorable story in a minute and a half, or less. Check out the video below to see that in action.

Here’s the secret to having your story heard. Actually, there’s two secrets.

Never mention the ‘s’ word

First, never mention the ‘s’ word. Never start your story by saying, “I’d like to share a story with you.”

Saying you’re going to share a story, especially in business, often triggers a negative reaction. The audience thinks, this is made up, it’s not business, it’s going to take too long.

Using the ‘s’ word in business is the business storytelling rookie error. Instead, start with point of your story and then just tell it. We call this a relevance statement.

Bryan Cranston might have said something like, “A change in career can happen in a moment.” just before he told this story.

Great story, right?

What makes it effective is that Bryan focusses on a single moment. A moment we can see happening, one we can feel happening.

And here’s the thing. When you tell your story at work and never mention the ‘s’ word, your audience isn’t sitting there thinking, “damn it, he’s telling a story, what a waste of time.” Instead they’re just leaning in wanting to know what happens next.

Have a point

Second, make sure you have a point. This is important, really know what your point is.

Knowing your point will improve your story immensely simply because you’ll jettison the unnecessary. Your story will be tighter and more compelling.

What are some other ways to help your story to be heard at work?

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. Given says:

    One other suggestion is to observe the reaction of your audience as you proceed with the story so that you can know when to wrap it up.

  2. This is a really great list of tips to manage your information delivery such that people actually receive it!

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