Everyone Has a Story to Tell


From Hemmingway to our evening newscasters, we are captivated by the stories they tell. However, everyone, you, me, the people we meet at networking events, also have stories worth telling. We all have events in our lives that, if focused and structured, can grab the attention of our listener or reader. And learning how to turn your life events into a compelling story will leave a more memorable impression. So what makes for a good story?


The basic points to crafting a great story apply whether you are writing a personal essay, a good job search cover letter, a marketing piece about your company’s product or service, or a business “success story.” It even applies to a 2 minute pitch you’d use in a networking situation. The only differences between all these are length and method of delivery.


To craft a good and memorable story, it must have:


A purpose

A good story must have an unforgettable message or make a memorable point. For instance, determine if you are trying to convince, promote an achievement, educate, compare, or evoke a response.


A plot (focus)

  • The story needs to have some conflict or a struggle. Describe a problem and how you elegantly solved it.

  • Unlike fiction, you never want to talk about failure, or tragedy.


The use of rich detail to capture attention  

  • Show, don’t tell. Paint a setting (the when and where)

  • Use anecdotes and similes. Avoid using clichés.

  • Use vibrant verbs, and descriptive adjectives. Make your sentences come alive.

  • Create a point of view using first person narrative unless you are talking about a team or your company in general.

  • Develop a logical structure. Keep to the point and don’t go off on tangents.

  • Come up with some attention-grabber when you begin your story. End with the resolution and how the solution generated benefits.


Think of the old journalistic Who What When Where Why with a twist or complication that leads to a resolution. Lace you story with successes and implied or stated benefits to which the listener or reader can relate. Remember, when you tell a story, keep your audience in mind. Make modifications to fit.


How to proceed:

  • Once you’ve decided on the focus of your story and what you wish it to accomplish start by writing it down.

  • In the draft of your story lay down the basics and get it organized. Then edit for flow and comprehension. In your final editing process, work on word choice to attain impact.

  • Read it out loud even if it is to be for a written piece.

  • Edit for time and length – a 2 minute pitch or several small stories in a speech will have to be shorter and more concise than a written business success story.


Remember to use concrete examples to get your point across. If you can’t back your claim with solid evidence, no one will believe what you say. Be specific!


Read it to someone and note their response. Ask for feedback, did the listener get the point, more important, did you hold their attention and entertain them.


If you will be presenting your story orally, rehearse, rehearse and rehearse again. Commit as much to memory as possible. But remember to use conversational sentence structure. In other words, relate the story as if talking to a friend.


We all have interesting events in our backgrounds that can make for great stories. You don’t need to be a Hemmingway to tell one. Just a desire to share your experience, good descriptive sentences, and a passion for your topic.