How to use storytelling: techniques for workplace success
March 28, 2024

How to use storytelling: techniques for workplace success

Toby Trimble and Jon Robbing share key techniques for successfully using storytelling in the workplace.

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How to use storytelling: techniques for workplace success
Event Speaker

Storytelling is sometimes misunderstood. Thought of as more of an art used in books, tv, and film. But the benefits that storytelling has on human behaviour are much more far reaching than that, and can be used extremely effectively as a tool for business success. The problem is, not many people are actually taught how to do this. This blog’s mission is to provide you with techniques on how to start using storytelling in this way.

Why use storytelling in the workplace?

Storytelling is a powerful tool that can greatly impact workplace success. When used correctly, storytelling can engage and inspire, create a sense of connection and belonging, and convey important messages in a memorable way. Stories have the ability to capture attention, evoke emotions, and make information more relatable and understandable.

In a business setting, storytelling can be used to communicate company values, share success stories, illustrate and market the impact of products or services, educate, and motivate teams. By incorporating storytelling into the workplace, organisations can enhance their communication, foster a positive work culture, and drive engagement and productivity to employees and to your market audience.

How to structure a story

So, let's get to it. How should you tell a story? Well, it’s important to know how you should structure your stories for use at work, so here are 5 key stages to follow when formulating your story:

  1. The Hook. Begin by stimulating a question in people's minds; something unusual, unexpected, mysterious, or suspenseful. This could be a question, a startling fact, or a short anecdote.

  1. The setting. Show where this happens, and when is it? To make it feel more real, use the present tense, and highlight something sensory - a taste, smell, sound, appearance. But, keep this short. Just set a small part of the scene then jump straight into the rest of the story. This gives room for the listener to imagine more of the setting themselves.

  1. The objective. What is it that the protagonist wants in this story? Get the listener to put themselves in the story by using a clear objective that is relatable to them.

  1. The obstacle. There needs to be an obstacle, either external (physical) or internal (emotional), getting in the way of the outcome. This will encourage your listeners to think about what they would do in this scenario to overcome the obstacle.

  1. The suspended outcome. Suspend the outcome until the end. Keep the tension by not giving away a spoiler too early.

You can use this storytelling recipe in many more scenarios than you think. In fact, you probably already do but don’t realise it. Let’s put it into action so you can see exactly what we mean:


“It’s the moment the high of my first job is brought down to reality.

Raise curiosity in the opening line.


It’s the summer of 2012. A concerned young couple walk in to my consult room, holding their basket tightly.

Jump right into the moment of action. No preamble. Just enough to convey the setting and atmosphere.

I open the basket door at one end and peer in to see a beautiful 11-month-old Bengal kitten inside.

Notice the use of present tense to take listeners ‘into the moment’.


I’m listening to the owner's concerns. He’s lost his appetite and gained weight. I put him on the scales and complete my clinical exam; it’s confirmed an abdominal effusion. 

Trace the character’s thoughts without judgement, commentary or opinion.


I suppress a sigh:

Don’t tell the audience what you felt. Describe what you physically do in the moment and allow your audience to infer the emotions.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis. I know that, currently, we don’t have any particularly effective means of treating FIP. But I explain to the owners we’ll do as much as we can. So we make a plan.

Less is more. No rambling explanations here! Keep only the essential details.


In spite of our efforts, after three weeks of no progress, we elect to put him to sleep.

Suspend the outcome

This, unfortunately, was a common occurrence with FIP at the time. But if we knew then what we know now, perhaps the story might have been different.
Now, there are treatments that are showing real promise. Let’s look at one potential treatment and examine the data.  …”

The key learning from the story stimulates urgency - the imperative to change.  Effective stories inspire action

Can you see how this story has been used as a tool to open a conversation about new research findings and data, in an engaging and interesting way? Discussing data and research findings is a great example of a topic, which is inherently jargon and number heavy, that can be brought to life with a little storytelling to introduce it. 

Key tips for a better story

Once you understand the structure, there are a few other things to consider; the length of your story, your own judgement on the obstacle, and how relevant the story is to you. Let’s jump into these now:

It’s great practice to keep your stories short and snappy, with the ideal story length being 1-2 minutes long. Sticking to this short form structure helps you retain the attention and interest of your audience. To help keep your stories short, aim to not go into too much detail.

We all have an instinct to want to explain things, but a story is best received if you keep your judgement on the situation out of the story. If we use our opinion we end up just telling people, which can limit the experience of the listener. So, try and focus on what you are saying and not what you think of it.

Finally, where do we begin? Simply start by crafting a story about what you're most familiar with - your own experience. This way, because you're being truthful, your listeners will relate to the topic and put themselves in your shoes.

To conclude

So, what are you taking away from this today? We’ve spoken about why you should use storytelling in business, and how you should do this. Make sure that your stories are short, relevant and without judgement. Include a hook, a setting, an objective, an obstacle, and a suspended outcome. If you use this formula, you stand a high chance of creating an engaging and interesting feel to your topic. Use this guidance to try some of your own stories in a non-pressurised setting, like a small meeting where you’re introducing a new concept, and see how it’s received.

If you’re wanting to take the next step, learn more techniques, and start putting them into practice straight away, our Storytelling and Presenting for impact workshops might be for you. These are a great way to delve deeper and kick start your use of storytelling and other techniques.

Our next workshop dates are 16th - 17th April. To find out more and register your interest click here:

Jon Robbins and Toby Trimble: Storytelling and Presenting for Impact Workshop.

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