Seven Secrets of Successful Storytelling

I attended a public lecture last night given by Dr. JD Schramm of the Stanford Graduate School of Business on storytelling, with a focus on creating engaging stories to help market products and services.

His seven secrets are:

Parachute in… don’t pre-able

Don’t warm up to the main point. Jump in right away.

Choose first carefully (and… final words…)

This is related to parachute in, and is the means by which you do so. Choosing your opening words carefully for maximum emotional impact.

Follow Goldilocks’ Theory… give us enough details but not too many

Too little detail leaves us wondering about the context. Too much detail bores us. Find the right balance between the two to engage the audience but not lose them later.

Practice One person… one thought… Sustain Eye contact with the room

This is directly applicable to presentations to groups. When conveying one idea, look at one person. When you move onto the next idea, move onto another person.

If you talk only to one person, the rest of the audience feels left out. If you talk to the room, but not to any specific people, everybody feels left out. If you’re talking to very large audience, maybe it’s one section, one though, but the idea is the same.

Remember the magic grain truck…. poetry packs a lot in a few words

To explain this I need to tell a story he told last night. He grew up in farm country and an English teacher used farm metaphors to make a point. A regular farm activity was transporting grain into town to sell.

The teacher asked the class what benefits might they enjoy if a magic grain truck could carry 7 times as much grain as it really could. They explored and threw out ideas:

  • Fewer trips.
  • Spend less on gas, so make more money
  • Finish in less time, so finish early
  • There were a few other ideas, but right now I’m forgetting

The teacher then draw a parallel between this “magic grain truck” and poetry. Poetry is where you pack a lot of meaning into very few words.

Use silence… The rest is as much a part of the music as the notes

This is also focused on delivering presentations, and the idea is to use pauses for emphasis. When you’re introducing a new idea, a brief pause before and after gives the audience time to both finish their last thought before hearing it and allow it to sink in a little before moving on.

Know your AIM… audience, intent, and message

AIM was a whole pre-topic in it’s own right.


Know who your talking to.


Know what you want the audience to do during or after the story.


Only when you’ve got your audience and intent down do you craft your message.

Storytelling as Marketing

Storytelling is how we as people first start learning. Our parents and the other people around us tell us stories. All though our lives stories are the best way to teach. The best way for someone else to remember what you’ve said.’

Learning to use storytelling in your marketing will better engage your audience.

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