I realize the title of this article sounds harsh and accusatory, but I wanted to grab your attention—something you want your story to do, by the way. But what I really want you to think about is how you can start making your story—and really ANY story—more efficient and compelling.


Many clients come to me wanting to work on their story or their pitch. It’s what you decide to say when people ask you, “So, what do you do?” or “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” 


But what should you say in your story? Should you tell them where you went to school? That you come from a big family? Should you just walk chronologically through the experience section of your resume? These are good questions.


Deciding what to include is the hardest part

As it turns out, deciding what to include in a story is what’s most difficult about telling a good one. And this applies to not just your professional story—but EVERY story.


Ever hear someone recount something a co-worker did where the story seems to be going nowhere? Where they include details that don’t have any reason to be in the story? Where the whole time you’re wondering, “Is there a point to this story?” We all have. And if we’re not mindful about our storytelling, we could be sounding just like that.


The good news is: If you can get good at telling stories—any stories—you’ll get good at telling your own. So, practice telling low-stakes stories to your significant other, to your kids, to your co-workers. And to keep from boring them, use the 4-part structure below.


The 4 parts of an effective story


Part 1 – Say why you’re telling the story

At a high level, what point are you trying to make. What’s the reason you decided to tell this story. It could be something like, “I saw a commercial last week that reminded me how difficult it is to stay focused, and I know you’re struggling with that right now.” And don’t spent too much time here. Simply articulate why the story might be relevant to your audience. They’ll relax knowing that you actually have a point to make and will be eager to hear the story.


Part 2 – Set the stage

Describe the situation. Who was there? Where were you (or whoever is involved in the story)? Again, don’t spend too much time here either. In fact, the less time the better. Provide only as much context as the audience will need to understand what happens in the story and how it relates to the point you’re making.


Part 3 – Say what happened

Give your story an arc: A challenge existed, someone did something (or something happened), and then the situation reached resolution. Spend most of your time in this part of your story, but—again—be intentional about what you include. Provide only details that relate to the overall point you want to make.


Part 4 – Recap and restate your point

Summarize your story and tell the audience how it relates to the high level point you wanted to make. For example, “So, when we see Kid Figaro work methodically through the tough circumstances that he inherited and then see him come out the other end with his integrity and reputation intact, it really shows us how we can overcome adversity by being persistent if we do it in the right way.”


Get better at telling ANY story


How does this structure sound to you? Easy on paper but hard to execute? It might be tough, but have fun with it! Tell someone you know a story from an episode of Family Guy (men) or Downton Abbey (women). Keep it short—shoot for 1-2 minutes and time yourself. When you finish, ask her how she liked your story.


I promise that if you get better at telling stories in general, you’ll have a much easier time telling YOUR story in a job search or professional networking setting. And more importantly, the people listening will appreciate you for your ability to tell an efficient and compelling story with a point.



Guillermo Villar is principal coach with Cambio Coaching. He helps high-achievers communicate with Purpose and get the career results they want.