Storytelling: Another Way of Communicating to Reach Goals

Kristi Pelzel

Understanding your audience is 50% of shaping a story, and understanding storytelling is the other 50%.

You’re sitting in a job interview, and you’ve been asked the “trick” question, “Tell me about yourself?” Only there is no trick here because we all know that the interviewer doesn’t really want to know about you. What they want to know is how as an aspect of your experience and background, shaped the reason you are not only the best fit for the company but also align with their personal biases and values.

You’ve been answering this question a lot longer than you think. When you speak to a family member, a friend, a client, a neighbor, a peer, a professor, or anyone, you might recall the stories you use to achieve a result.

I am NOT talking about your life story. I am NOT talking about a script or a lengthy narrative. I am talking about the micro-stories you tell to develop your personal brand, define who you are, and reach goals. You won’t always walk around talking in “stories,” but there are times understanding the nature of storytelling will benefit you.

Understanding your audience is 50% of shaping a story, and understanding storytelling is the other 50%.

Who are you? Or, more specifically, how do you want the person sitting across from you to think about you?

What do you want? If the story goes well, what will you walk away with, and how will this be measured as a success?

Types of Stories

In the book “Storytelling for Dummies,” we learn about common types of stories, and many of those examples work for telling a short story to entertain or persuade, an elevator pitch, or to answer the question, “Tell me about yourself.”

  • Better Off: Someone gets in trouble, gets out of trouble, and ends up better off.

  • Loss and Gain: Someone has a great opportunity, wins, or falls in love — loses it — and then regains it.

  • Cinderella: Someone is in a bad place in life, and someone helps them. Then, the “helper” loses faith in them, and they have to restore their honor to continue towards success.

  • Problem Solver: There was a big problem, and you worked through fixing it and then learned a big lesson.

  • Data Story: Something was happening that can be numbered, and a challenge presented, needing fixing, and results are quantifiable. An analysis of the actions proves the success of the results.

  • Lessons Learned: A challenge is presented, an action is taken, a lesson is learned.

  • Opportunity: A dream or promise is possible. Suddenly, there is an obstacle. You’re working toward overcoming the obstacle, and you explain “what could be if…”

  • Underdog: All odds are against someone. They struggle, and they overcome.

Stage Presence

Telling your story with confidence is almost as crucial as getting the story right. Be confident!

Stand as still as possible to focus on the words, cutting physical distractions. You want people to focus on what you are saying, not doing. If you’re swaying side to side or playing with a pen, that might distract from the message.

Give the right amount of eye contact. Sometimes too much eye contact comes across as forceful or aggressive, and then other times, it’s called for, so consider it when delivering your story.


  • You run into a professor who’s yet to approve your admittance into a class? You’ve got 30-seconds from where you met up until you both exit the building — what’s your story?

  • You step into an elevator with someone who just interviewed you for a policy analysis writing position. You’re on the 35th floor (alone), and you’re both getting off at the street-level. What story will leave a memorable interaction?

  • An application for a speechwriter at the Department of International Affairs has a summary question: “In 100 words or less, tell me about yourself. What will you write?

Humans are wired to listen to and remember stories, to wrap their minds around known narrative structures. The more emotion the story is able to stir in the person listening the more memorable.

Consider storytelling as a way of conveying information to reach your goals. In reality, you’re already telling stories, but now with the awareness of a new concept for communicating you can get better at it.

Article originally published to Medium

Written by Kristi Pelzel