The Storytelling Canvas

Christoph Kayser
Aug 8, 2015 · 3 min read

How to structure your thinking to build a compelling and convincing storyline.

We’re all big thinkers: planners, strategists, consultants,… and are biased towards trying to conceptualise everything — the challenges we’re facing in our daily work and even beyond, the world we’re living in. It’s a curse and blessing at the same time. Despite the amount of thoughts we put into our work, its success comes down to the moment we communicate them to our peers, colleagues and clients.

Yet, getting our thinking straight to build a compelling and convincing storyline can be challenging. Way to often we open our laptops and start filling the first slides of our deck or pages of an article with our thoughts immediately. While we are following our idea of what we want to say, we often miss a clear strategy of how we’re going to say it and what arguments we have to include to communicate what we’re planning to say.

The Framework

Something that helped me allot in my daily work is by starting to outline the basic storyline on paper beforehand. It is a simple yet effective way to get your thinking straight and evaluate the arguments you need to underpin your strategy. Despite what consultancy presentation or agency brief you look at they all pretty much follow the same storyline of:

  1. What’s the situation we’re in?
  2. What’s the challenge we’re facing?
  3. And, what actions are we going to take to overcome this challenge?

Barbara Minto, autor of “The Pyramid Principle” refers to it as the SQCA framework, which builds the foundation for most of todays consultancies’ approach. Agencies have their Creative Briefs, which mostly follow a similar structure. As Bud Caddell already stated in his deck “Digital Strategy 101”, this is nothing new, it all goes back to Freytag’s Pyramid, which until today hasn’t lost any of its importance — yet put in a business context.

Bud Caddell’s slide on “Freytag’s Pyramid”

Based on the challenge I was facing and the framework outlined before I put together “The Storytelling Canvas” – A simple one-pager to outline and structure your thinking:

The Storytelling Canvas

Image for post
Image for post
The Storytelling Canvas

You can download a printable version here.

How to use it

Well, the canvas is quite self-explanatory and shouldn’t be too unfamiliar since the framework itself is well known already. Think of it as a working tool and don’t feel the need to move from field 1 to 5 — Instead start with the box you feel most comfortable with. For example you might have a clear vision of the key message you want to communicate at the end, but still lack some of the arguments, thats totally fine! It also shows you in which areas you might have to find more input to complete your story.

Always in Beta

As this is just a first draft of The Storytelling Canvas, feel free to let me know what you think and if you have any ideas on how to further improve the canvas. Thank you!

Hello, I’m Christoph. I am a Digital Strategy Enthusiast
and Consultant @LHBS in Berlin. Follow my journey.

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