A case of Mistaken Identity.

Jul 04, 2021

Why your storytelling might not actually be storytelling.

It happens almost every time I coach someone.

We’re chatting through ways to make their presentation more engaging, and storytelling invariably comes up.

“Oh – I have a great story I can use here.” To which I respond, “tell me your story.” The response tends to go like this…”Well, we had this unique challenge with one client, which included A/B/C. We looked at what would make things better and created this great solution that included D/E/F. Ultimately, it saved them hours and maximized the impact of their investment. They’re really happy.”

Here’s the problem with that story. It’s not actually a story.

Instead, it’s a case study, a common list of Problem/Solution/Results. Case studies are useful, powerful ways to demonstrate, build credibility and serve as proof of concept. They’re even better if you can tell embed that case study into an intriguing, compelling story.

The difference between the two? Detail, detail, detail. Great stories put your audience in the moment, making them an Extra in your Hollywood movie. When you tell a story, your audience can see it, hear it, visualize it. That creates emotional connection, which is a significant reason why stories get remembered in the first place.

There are absolutely other factors involved in epic stories – from Freytag’s Pyramid to mystery and surprise. But the fastest way you can build a memorable story is to look at that case study you want to deliver and add detail.

“Storytelling is in the details.”


Try this – express your case study as a real moment.
Here’s how you do that.

Start by listing out the key elements of your case study – Problem/Solution/Results. Now take the problem and try any of these tools…Pick an actual moment where you were surprised or that the audience can relate to

  • Describe a physical location that your audience knows
  • Tuck in some humour or insight
  • Share how you felt when you discovered something

Any of these four should get you started in the right direction. That helps you begin your case with phrases like “You know that moment you’re in trouble when you’re pitching and the client is staring at their phone…” or “You know what I love about Coney Island? The way it smells – it smells like summer.”

Details. Get great at them and they’ll transform that boring old case study into an empathetic story that grabs your audience from the first words.