December 5, 2023

Define your big idea, use visuals, drive action

Business storytelling is an essential skill because it helps articulate vital data and stories that enable decisions and actions to optimize results. This article offers seven practical and actionable tactics you can use as a learning and development leader to improve your business storytelling skills.

7 tactics for successful business storytelling

1. Use story structure

Narrative structure can help create a sense of momentum and build tension in your story. A simple but effective story structure to consider involves identifying your big idea and using the three critical elements of why, what, and how to support it. Kurnoff and Lazarus [1] it offers additional story structure: setting, characters, conflict, big idea, and resolution. Place, characters, and conflict make up the “why,” the main idea is the “what,” and the solution is the “how.”

2. Know your audience

An essential step in creating a successful business story is to understand your audience. Who are they? what are they interested in? What are their pains and problems? Your audience is often diverse and each audience member has different interests. To engage each audience member, you may want to introduce specific characters in your narrative that represent the specific interests and conflicts of the audience member groups you’ve identified. This means that your story will need to be even more airtight to ensure that all the characters ultimately fit your big idea. Once you have a clear understanding of your audience, you can tailor your story to lead with their needs and interests and engage them emotionally to buy into your big idea and call to action.

3. Create memorable headlines

Business stories should be simple and straightforward. Don’t use jargon or technical language that could confuse your audience. Instead, use clear and concise language to create memorable headlines that tell a story and drive home your big idea and call to action. Well-crafted headlines help you keep your audience’s attention, control the narrative, and drive the outcome forward. Kurnoff and Lazarus recommend three tactics for creating memorable headlines: be concise, specific, and conversational. Being concise means you need to edit and then edit some more to remove unnecessary words. Being specific means you can use a data point, time frame, or unit of measurement that resonates with your audience. Finally, conversational means your headline is easy to understand and avoids jargon and big words.

4. Use Visuals

Visuals are a powerful storytelling tool. According to John Medina’s research, people remember 10% of a story three days after hearing it. If the story included an image, they would retain 65%. The saying “a picture speaks louder than a thousand words” applies here. They can help illustrate complex ideas and make your story more engaging and memorable. Use charts, graphs, images and videos to enhance your story and capture your audience’s attention.

In their book, authors Janine Kurnoff and Lee Lazarus [1] highlight five visual elements that can enhance your storytelling: photos, diagrams, data, text, and videos. Photos can be quite powerful as they help humanize the message and create an emotional connection with your audience in ways that resonate more deeply and are more memorable. Diagrams can help you break down key points and deliver a message quickly and concisely. Data, both qualitative and quantitative, is critical to your story. While you can use it in charts, tables, or quotes, you can also combine oversized text and numbers to highlight key messages. Text is also a type of visual that is usually overused. You can use text sparingly and use different fonts, colors and sizes to highlight your big idea. Video can be used to bring character to life and enhance the big idea and your call to action.

5. Close with a Call to Action

Your business story must culminate with a call to action. What do you want your audience to do? Engage more, make decisions or direct your teams to action? Lee and Lazarus call the end of the story “the denouement”. The resolution should be detailed enough to allow the audience to make up their own minds. You should have enough backup information in case your audience asks you for more details. The call to action or solution must match, support and highlight the big idea of ​​your story.

6. Use Emotions

Emotions are a powerful tool for storytelling. It can help create a connection with your audience, make your story more memorable, and inspire your audience to take action. Aristotle defined ethos, logos, and pathos as the three fundamental pillars of emotional engagement and persuasion. TED talks are a great example of stories that use emotional connections to spark engagement and action on behalf of the audience.

7. Be creative, concise and sharp

Creativity and authenticity are essential when telling business stories. Being bold in how you use the various tactics described here can help you and your team increase your creativity. Being authentic, honest, and genuine in your storytelling, and even showing vulnerability, can be helpful depending on your audience’s interests and needs. Last but not least, it is important to be concise. Most people can remember up to three things after a presentation, so it’s important to keep the story short and to the point. Your audience will appreciate your honesty and brevity and will be more likely to connect with you and your message.


Business storytelling is an essential skill that everyone must master. Several business storytelling tactics can be valuable to you and your L&D team, including creating a story structure, knowing your audience, and using visuals. As you strive to create more engaging and memorable stories, remember that business storytelling is an invitation for your audience to join you on a journey of ideas. A story will help you and your audience navigate the mass of information and focus on a big idea that will capture your audience’s attention and inspire them to take action to improve learning outcomes in your organization.


[1] Kurnoff, J. and Lazarus, L. 2021. Everyday Business Storytelling: Create, simplify and customize visual storytelling for every audience. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

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