July 1, 2019

Business Storytelling – The Hybrid Story

Depending on the client and the event, I use stories that can be targeted towards lessons that are applicable in leadership, sales, marketing, fundraising or inspiration. The needs of the client determine what stories I use. My client’s audience isn’t interested in something that happened to me, unless I can relate it to their current situation.

My stories serve as metaphors for a problem or challenge that the organization as a whole, or the individuals in my audience, might be dealing with.

The stories that work best are what I call “hybrid stories”. They start out as personal stories that take place in a non-business setting, and then they transition into a business application. You can think of it as part one and part two of a story.

The first part of the story is a personal story that I’ve chosen because of the lesson that it illustrates. The second part of the story is the application of the lesson to the business client’s day to day activities.

For example: a story I use in many of my presentations is the Pill in the Peanut Butter story. It’s a story about having to give my dog, Jaya, a pill because she was sick. Since I’d never done this before, I did what the veterinarian told me to do. I opened her jaw with both hands and then placed the pill as far down in the back of her throat as possible. Then I clamped her jaw shut and waited for her to swallow.

The theory was that she would swallow the pill. The reality was that she just kept staring at me with those big brown eyes, obviously not understanding what she was supposed to do. After about sixty seconds, I figured she must have swallowed the pill, but when I released my hold on her jaw, she coughed up the pill.

I went through three pills that way before I gave up and called my friend John. John had lots of experience with dogs. He told me to get some peanut butter and put a glob of it in my hand. Then he told me to hide the pill in the peanut butter and when she ate the peanut butter, she’d swallow the pill. Which she did. Voila…success.

That’s the end of part one of the story. The lesson: Hide the Pill in the Peanut Butter.

Part two begins by relating the metaphor of the pill to the “hard to swallow” facts, data and details that make a presentation dull, boring and complex. I take a few minutes to talk about the “pill” in the specific context of that client or audience. Having made that connection, I relate the look of confusion on Jaya’s face to the glassy-eyed look on someone’s face when they’re on the receiving end of a data dump.

Part two continues as I equate the “peanut butter” to the use of a story instead of bullet points, data and details. Like peanut butter, information contained inside a well-told story sticks. The metaphor continues by equating storytelling to information that sticks.

At this point, I like to paint an imaginary story scenario of someone in my audience making a typical presentation filled with good information and data, but without story. Then I share some of the same data and information at the proper place in a story. I show how you hide the pill in the peanut butter.

You must connect part one and part two for your story to be a Hybrid story.

In the end, it’s not about the information you share in a presentation, it’s all about what they remember. If you’re not memorable, you lose and they lose. You lose because you failed to engage and connect on an emotional level. You become forgettable. They lose because they don’t remember the point or lesson long enough to change their behavior and achieve better results from your ideas.

In order to make a personal story relevant, you have to understand your audience and what keeps them awake at night. You have to do your research by interviewing people who will be in your audience and letting them tell you their stories. I like to interview at least three people and ask them to tell me the story of a day in their life. This pre-program research helps me connect part one and part two of the hybrid story.

Take the time to make sure you connect the dots between whatever story you intend to use in a presentation and the challenges your audience, employees or sales prospects are facing.

Data gets dumped unless it’s hidden inside a story. Next time you make a presentation, hide the pill in the peanut butter.

Click this link to watch a video of me performing my Pill in the Peanut Butter Story.


Doug Stevenson, CSP, works with individuals and organizations to help them identify and tell inspiring stories that make a point, teach a lesson or sell a product or service. He is the president of Story Theater International, a Tucson, Arizona based consultancy. He is the creator of The Story Theater Method and the author of the book, Doug Stevenson’s Story Theater Method and the Next Level Video eLearning Series.

His has delivered keynote speeches, workshops and training courses on storytelling and story selling for clients in 18 countries since 1996 including Aetna, Abbott Labs, Amgen, Caterpillar, Con Agra Foods, Coca Cola, Deloitte, Google, Genentech, Hewlett Packard, Red Bull, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Pfizer, Oracle, SAP, Volkswagen, Verizon, NBC, The Nickelodeon Channel, The Department of Defense, The National Education Association, Association of Financial Professionals, Project Managers Institute, CALIBR, and many more.

To inquire about Doug’s availability email: [email protected]

Doug can be reached at 1-719-310-8586. Learn more about how Doug can help you tell your story, purchase the book, eBook or Story Theater audio six pack, and sign-up for the free Story Theater newsletter at: www.storytelling-in-business.com.

Watch Doug’s preview video here:

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