Stories With a Splash: 3 Tips for Surprising Your Audiences


Stories With a Splash: 3 Tips for Surprising Your Audiences

As most of my friends know, I’ve been following the Golden State Warriors, a professional basketball team, as they’ve moved closer to securing an NBA Title.  By all accounts, the team is outstanding: creative ball-handling, precision shooting and solid defense earned them the best regular season record in NBA history.  But what makes the Warriors so popular among sports fans and the general public alike?

The answer is obvious to anyone who watches the team play: the element of surprise.

The Warriors win games with surprise offensive bursts (i.e. Steph Curry’s 17-point overtime performance) that leave their opponents flat footed and their fans in awe.  To help you tell stories that take shock and amaze, here are “3 Tips for Surprising Your Audience”.  Follow these guidelines and you’ll have your audience cheering you on in no time.

1. Unpack Expectations.  The first step in creating a huge surprise is to unpack any expectations surrounding the surprise in question.  What did you anticipate would happen in the situation?  What actually happened?  Surprises exist in the space between expectation and reality, so take time to unpack both elements.

2. Build Suspense.  Once you’ve laid out all of the events and expectations, begin to reconstruct the surprising moment with the goal of highlighting the discrepancy between what you were lead to believe and what actually happened.  At every turn, ask yourself: “If I were an audience member, what would I be thinking?”.  If you (the storyteller) can “figure out” the surprise, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to pull one over on your audience.  Allow the suspense to build organically by slowly ratcheting up the stakes.

3. Offer A Final Surprise.  After you’ve paid off your audience with the surprise you promised, the last step is to provide a surprise after your audience believes the moment is over.  The final surprise turns the initial expectations on their head and leaves the audience wanting more.

Pretty surprising, huh?


Mission Accomplished: 3 Storytelling Tips for Great Mission Statements


Mission Accomplished: 3 Storytelling Tips for Great Mission Statements

As a entrepreneur, I’m always looking for ways to articulate the mission of my business to people.  There are a ton of articles about how to write a good mission statement, ranging from useful (see “Answer 4 Questions to Get a Great Mission Statement” in Forbes) to completely worthless (too many to mention).

Unfortunately, most business schools and advice columns neglect to mention the most important part of mission statements: storytelling.

To help you write a mission statement that articulates the value of your company while inspiring people to get involved, here are “3 Storytelling Tips for Great Mission Statements.”  You mission will never be the same.

1.  Open With Your Value Proposition.  Mission statements are the beginning of a company story, so it’s important to open with a strong hook.  The first, and perhaps most important, part of a mission statement is the value proposition.  In the simplest terms, a value proposition is the answer to the question: What’s in it for your customers?  The trick here is to focus on what the organization does and the results these actions, not the features of the product or service.  In story terms, this is the theme, or big idea, behind a company’s narrative.  The theme should consolidate the emotions the customers will feel (i.e. comfort or relaxation) and experiences the customers will have (i.e. cost or time savings) with the company into a single sentence or phrase.  This process can take time, but one tip is to eliminate comparative statements such as better, more, cleaner, faster, etc.  For example, instead of saying: “Our company makes it easier to connect people with their families,” it’s “Our company brings families together.”

2.  Build Interest With A Problem.  Like all good stories, mission statements should address the problem the organization is trying to solve.  Instead of telling your potential customers “why” they should buy a product or service, show them how the existing market is ignoring an opportunity or failing to serve a particular population.  Once you’ve identified how the company is going to do this, spell it out for your audience.  In the example above, if the value proposition is “Our company brings families together,” the follow up sentence should demonstrate how this is done (i.e. “We simplify user interface, improve communication speed and lower the cost of transmission.”).  Be specific!

3.  Articulate a Vision.  The final step in writing a great mission statement is to offer a solution to the problem you’ve set up.  The solution should address how the values of the organization specifically inform your answer to the problem, and how your product or service is an extension of those values.  The way to do this is with a short description of the products or services followed by a quick restatement of the value proposition.  Once you’ve done this, articulate what will be possible for customers and the general public because of the product.   Remember: you’re selling an experience, not just a product.

Your mission just got a little less impossible.

May 28: Storytelling for Entrepreneurs

The Next Storytelling for Entrepreneurs: Presentations to Elevator Pitches is coming up on Thursday, May 28th at General Assembly

Not all elevator pitches are created equal. You may think you’ve got a can’t miss pitch, but if you can’t explain your idea in a compelling and interesting way, your message may get lost in translation. In this class, you’ll learn how to utilize storytelling techniques in business settings. You’ll begin with the three types of business stories, then learn tips for telling them effectively, relaxation techniques for performing them, ways to become a better listener, and much more.


  • Learn tips for uncovering stories in everyday life.
  • Discover ways to make your story more persuasive.
  • Find out how to use stories in pitches, presentations, and meetings.
  • Learn ways to incorporate stories into mission statements and product launches.

Prereqs & Preparation

No prerequisites. Students should bring a pen and paper to complete the handouts and assignments.

RSVP today to reserve your spot!

Can’t make it to this one? Check out upcoming shows and workshops from Andrew Linderman & The Story Source here.