In 2014, Ben Horowitz — co-founder of the influential VC firm Andreesen-Horowitz — famously called storytelling “the most underrated skill.” Five years later, you’d be hard pressed to find a businessperson or leader who hasn’t been working on that skill. Dozens of books and thousands of articles have convinced us that storytelling is essential to capturing the most precious commodity of our modern age: attention.
Storytelling can help you in almost any endeavor, whether you want to open minds, land a job, ace a presentation, build an audience, close a deal, attract investors, or simply make a friend. A great story is a gift. It’s a spark of connection. It begins like any communication, with figuring out what you want to share and who you want to share it with — your message and audience — but then it gets magical.
Unlike a list of facts or data points, a story has narrative momentum. A beginning, a middle, and an end. It may be complex and meandering (Joyce’s Ulysses) or deceptively simple (For sale: baby shoes, never worn), but it’s always a journey. Stories draw us in, make us care, and move us from one place to another — emotionally, mentally, and sometimes even physically.
But when everybody’s a storyteller, how do you make your story stand out? What takes a story from good to great? You’ll have to go beyond the basics of audience, message, and structure to craft a story that’s real, relevant, and remembered.
Keep it real
Real is about earning trust. “Great stories are trusted,” says marketing guru Seth Godin. “Trust is the scarcest resource we’ve got left.”
Factual accuracy can be part of this — inflated statistics and exaggerated claims will quickly undermine trust. But I’m talking about a kind of realness than can exist even in fictional stories. A real story is clear and authentic.
Clear means people can follow it and understand it. It’s a combination of thoughtful structure, relatable language, and solid thinking. If you’re speaking in vague generalities, jumping around in time, or using a bunch of…