What are the three most important words for those of us engaged in storytelling for business?

People, People, People

OK, I stole this from the three most important words in real estate: location, location, location.

Whenever possible, we need to remember that all stories that are fact-driven can be told in terms of people, people, people.


We don’t want to begin our tales with descriptions, overviews, an analysis of the social problem. We want to begin with people, people, people who we care about. We care about them enough so what happens to them actually means something to us.

That means that you have to take the basic facts and find people who are undergoing the same, well, hero’s journey with all the attendant ups and downs.

Don't start stories with facts

You can start your story with the family you use as your subject, and once you have weaved in the bare essential details of who they are, what their dilemma is and why we should care about them, you can then begin to weave in the facts of the story in unobtrusive ways. The folks in my story, you say, are part of a growing trend of Americans who ba-ba-ba-ba-ba boom! Whatever it is. And then you go right back into your cool story.

More cool story. More facts slyly slid in so even the audience doesn’t realize you are giving them their medicine with their candy, and then back, once again, for the conclusion of your wonderful story.

Finally, on this treatise about the need for people-people-people, I must overstate the obvious: the everyday lives of people are always interesting if written well, but the big events in someone’s life must be captured with all the tools in the writer’s toolbox. Let’s look at a piece by one of the finest skilled writing craftsmen who ever lived.

Read one of America's greatest story leads

Here is one of the most famous newspaper editorials. The author is William Allen White, the early twentieth century editor of the Emporia Gazette in Kansas.


White’s most famous piece of writing appeared in May, 1921 on the occasion of the death of his daughter, Mary White. Here is the beginning:

    The Associated Press reports carrying the news of Mary White’s death declared that it came as a result of a fall from a horse. How she would have hooted at that! She never fell from a horse in her life.


     Horses have fallen on her and with her — ‘I’m always trying to hold ‘em in my lap,’ she used to say. But she was proud of few things, and one of them was that she could ride anything that had four legs and hair. Her death resulted not from a fall but from a blow on the head which fractured her skull, and the blow came from the limb of an overhanging tree on the parking.


      The last hour of her life was typical of its happiness. She came home from a day’s work at school, topped off by a hard grind with the copy on the High School Annual, and felt that a ride would refresh her. She climbed into her khakis, chattering to her mother about the work she was doing, and hurried to get her horse and be out on the dirt roads for the country air and the radiant green fields in the spring.


   As she rode through the town on an easy gallop, she kept waving at passers-by. She knew everyone in town. For a decade the little figure in the long pigtail and the red hair ribbon has been familiar on the streets of Emporia, and she got in the way of speaking to those who nodded at her. She passed the Kerrs, walking the horse in front of the Normal Library, and waved at them; passed another friend a few hundred feet farther on, and waved at her.


    The horse was walking, and as she turned into North Merchant Street, she took off her cowboy hat, and the horse swung into a lope. She passed the Tripletts and waved her cowboy hat at them, still moving gaily north on Merchant Street.


    A Gazette carrier passed – a high school boy friend – and she waved at him, but with her bridle hand; the horse veered quickly, plunged into the parking where the low-hanging limb faced her and, while she still looked back waving, the blow came. But she did not fall from the horse; she slipped off, dazed a bit, staggered, and fell in a faint. She never quite recovered consciousness…

Remember that you can bring Dave Lieber to your group. He’s an expert in storytelling for business and showing the power of storytelling to increase sales, build support, raise money and attract attention.

He’s a Certified Speaking Professional and a fabulous entertainer offering fun and funny insights to make your life better. He’s The Watchdog columnist at The Dallas Morning News.

Dave Lieber. Authentic. Engaging. Interactive.

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