Saturday, January 3, 2015

The 4 Building Blocks to Creating Powerful Examples and Stories

When’s the last time you were inspired by a spreadsheet?

A bullet point list?

A pie chart?

I didn't think so.

You, (and everyone else, BTW) is up to your eyeballs in information. 

It’s called “Death by PowerPoint” for a reason:  don’t pour more water on people who are already drowning.

People don’t just want more information.

They want to connect.  They want meaning.  They want a leader worth following.

They want faith in you, in your goals, in your vision.

What's the secret to connecting, inspiring, sharing your vision?

Do it through the story that you tell. 

 In posts over the last two months, we discussed that top performers (in all disciplines) share a commitment to preparation, and the #1 mistake leaders make when they rehearse.

We introduced the acronym PREP:


This month is about E: Examples & Stories.

What separates great stories from boring ones?

All great stories are built on a foundation of 4 key building blocks:

1.     Character
2.     Crisis or conflict
3.     Resolution
4.     Insight


What are the essential details of the people in the story?  How do we relate to them?  We need a clear vivid picture of who they are.   Sensory details and imagery can help a lot here.  (For example, there’s a big difference between “I walked into her office”, and “As I approached her large gleaming mahogany desk, I could see the skyline on the East Side of Central Park out of her 53rd floor corner office.” 


What is the tension here?  Every good story has conflict built in.  What were you battling?  How can you create strong contrast between the opposing forces?  The audience wants to feel your struggle.  


How does the conflict resolve?  What kind of “ending” was created?  This is the natural release that comes after tension.


This step is the one most often missed. What is the lesson/impact/moral that you want your audience to get from the story?  Don’t assume they get it on their own.  You may have to be explicit as to how it relates to their world.  Make the connection back your reason for telling the story in the first place.

Stories should be built with your audience in mind.  They don’t have to be long—sometimes 30 seconds will do---but they should always have these 4 building blocks as their foundation.

What stories have inspired you most?  Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Next month, we’ll explore the final piece of the PREP acronym:  P: Participate

To continue the conversation, connect with me on LinkedIn:  and read my weekly blog at:


  1. Stories are so much more fun and memorable, the only way to go!

  2. Well said, Alain. Great tips for creating powerful content stories for blogs and speeches.