How to Tell a Good Story? The Story Must Be Interesting and Influential!

In the summer of 1994, Thomas was having afternoon tea with colleagues in the break room. Steve Jobs walked in, started making a bagel and asked: “Who do you think is the most powerful person in the world?” Thomas immediately replied: “Nelson Mandela!” Jobs, in his usual confident manner, said: “Wrong! The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. They create the vision, values and issues for a whole generation. This is the role that Disney took all for himself. Do you know what? I’ve had enough! I want to become the next storyteller!” He then walked out of the break room with the bagel. Jobs eventually fulfilled his vow. At the helm of Pixar, he created many very moving and influential stories. He also applied his storytelling technique to Apple’s brand strategy and re-defined the values of high-tech products. Through Job’s story, Apple products created a new and better future.

When you look back on Apple product launch conferences hosted by Jobs, didn’t you feel really envious and sighed at how your ideas always get shot down by your managers and colleagues? Storytelling is the most effective way of getting your idea out. In an influential story, it not only contains a cleverly placed message but can also stir the audience’s interest and build an emotional connection with the audience. Decision-making then goes beyond just reason and logic. 

Elements of a Good Story

According to the Stillmotion production team, a moving story should possess 3 basic elements: character, plot and purpose. G!VOICE will now use the most popular Super Bowl ad in America last year – Doritos’ “Goat 4 Sale” – to discuss how a good story presents these 3 basic elements. 

1. Character: The main character in the story does not have to be human. It can be an animal or object. In the Doritos ad for example, the main character is the Doritos-addicted goat “Moose”, and its new owner. The fun interaction between them transports the audience into the story. The character in the story is connected to the audience’s lifestyle somewhat. If the story’s intended audience is single males, then a funny story about pregnancy is not going to gain much attraction. If it’s a story about military service then it will grab their attention and make immersion easier. 

2. Plot: Every story has a journey. It usually opens with the status quo, then something happens to bring change for the better or for worse. In the Doritos ad, there were two events. One is the male character buying the Doritos-loving goat and the beginning of happy hours spent eating Doritos together. The second event was when the snack cabinet was cleared out and the plot seemed to become a thriller. Regardless of whether the change introduced by the event is for better or worse, there must always be conflict and an enemy. The enemy can appear in any form including an opponent, a bottleneck in R&D, or even a seemingly tame goat. When the audience and the characters face and overcome problems together, they project themselves onto the character as well. This journey must be unpredictable because if the audience can predict what happens next, they will lose interest in the story. 

▲Every Disney movie has an anti-hero to hold the main characters back on their journey. 

3. Purpose: Before telling the story, be very clear on why you are telling this story? What does it mean to the audience? Pixar animation producer Andrew Stanton mentioned in a TED lecture that “A good story will always have a strong and powerful theme running through it”. In the Doritos ad, the male character’s purchase of a Doritos-loving goat, or the originally tame goat going crazy were all centered around the theme of “Doritos is so tasty it makes us do things we don’t usually do”. People may want to try writing the theme down in one phrase or in a few short words in order to ensure that the story stays true to the theme. 

Use Storytelling Techniques in the Proposal

How to artfully package the message in the story during the presentation is not as hard as people imagine it to be. Well-known American presentation designer Nancy Duarte analyzed many great speakers and compiled a common speech model. First, they use storytelling to describe the current situation, discuss the current problems and then propose their core view. They then outline the better future that this will create. The audience will then start thinking over whether they should accept this viewpoint. The speaker must therefore provide multiple examples and use more micro-stories to support their core view. Finally, they make the conclusion in a dramatic and poetic manner. During storytelling, try using more body language and visual imagery. Give the audience hints on how to respond, and choose the right vocabulary based on the audience’s level of expertise. These will all help with effectively conveying the message to the audience through storytelling. 

▲55% of the information remembered by the audience is transmitted visually, 38% is transmitted orally, and only 7% is transmitted through text. So deciding what pictures and graphs will be needed in the PowerPoint presentation right from the start will help enhance the story’s interest and the stickiness of the message. 

Nobody is a born a good speaker. Behind every exciting lecture in TED Talks is a professional team checking the content of the lecture and providing assistance with speaking skills when appropriate. Once you know the trick of making influential stories, all you need is constant practice and adjustment so become the next Steve Jobs! 


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