Speak Like a CEO by Oliver Aust

Storytelling Techniques For Leaders

Published about 1 month ago • 4 min read

This week: 12 Storytelling Techniques for Leaders / A Hostage Negotiator's Guide to High-Stakes Conversations / How to Craft Messages That Win Big

12 Storytelling Techniques for Leaders

Storytelling techniques can feel overwhelming. From narratives to hero’s journeys to conversion stories, how do you choose the right one?

Let’s break through the confusion with 12 highly effective storytelling techniques I use regularly to create order out of chaos. For a handy 1-page visual, check out my post here.

Speaking of creating “order out of chaos,” Scott Walker’s bestselling negotiation book of the same title is hailed by The New York Times as “A Masterclass in Communication Excellence.” I had the privilege of interviewing Scott on this week’s episode of the Speak Like a CEO podcast – more on that below!


Technique: Narrative

Purpose: Big picture story to frame all other stories

Example: When we first started this company, we had a vision to change the way work gets done. Over the years, we've brought that vision to life one innovation at a time.


Technique: Origin Story

Purpose: Evoke authenticity and humanize the brand.

Example: I always dreamt of being an entrepreneur, but I couldn’t find a product idea I was passionate about. It wasn't until I had a child that the idea crystalized when I saw a need...


Technique: Brand Story

Purpose: Communicate the essence, values, and identity of a brand.

Example: We believe technology should enhance human potential, not replace it. We see tech as an enabler, not an end in itself...


Technique: In Medias Res

Purpose: Start like an action movie to hook the audience.

Example: Our biggest client was threatening to walk unless we could resolve the crisis… I knew this make-or-break moment would define our company.


Technique: Hero’s Journey

Purpose: Describe how the audience could transform with you as their guide.

Example: Like many business leaders, you may feel overwhelmed. Let me be your modern-day Sherpa to help navigate this unfamiliar digital terrain and emerge successfully transformed.


Technique: Leadership Story

Purpose: Explain how you led others through challenges.

Example: When our website went down before a major launch, panic ensued. But I rallied the team to quickly diagnose the issue. We turned that potential failure into our biggest sales day ever.


Technique: Equity Story

Purpose: Fundraising.

Example: 80% of businesses are struggling with rising operating costs that are eating into profits… Our groundbreaking AI can save millions in operating costs and unlock new revenue streams.


Technique: Pie-in-the-face Story

Purpose: Prove that you are fallible and human, with a sense of humor.

Example: We were so eager to impress a prospective client that we created overly complex solutions. When we met them, they just wanted something simple. It was a wake-up call to stop overthinking and really listen to our customers' needs.


Technique: Transformation Story

Purpose: Highlight previous change to underscore the need for a transformation.

Example: 5 years ago, we were struggling to stay afloat. We overhauled our entire operating model and the results were staggering.


Technique: Customer Success Story

Purpose: Showcase how your product has positively impacted a customer's life.

Example: When we partnered with them, they were wasting thousands of working hours each month. Within 6 months of implementing our solutions, they were able to reassign 75% of those hours to higher-value projects.


Technique: Conversion Story

Purpose: Transform a potential into an actual customer.

Example: Our platform has helped companies just like yours increase revenue by 300%. With our capabilities, we can pinpoint and remediate bottlenecks, so you ship faster without sacrificing quality.


Technique: Conversion Story

Purpose: Transform a potential into an actual customer.

Example: Imagine a world where AI amplifies human ingenuity rather than replace it. A world where we're finally free from menial tasks and can focus on creative problem-solving.


A Hostage Negotiator's Guide to High-Stakes Conversations

When hostage situations, kidnappings, or cyber attacks put lives and livelihoods at stake, Scott Walker is the crisis negotiator called in to resolve the chaos. Having successfully negotiated over 300 high-stakes incidents, Scott shares the field-proven principles from his best-selling book "Order Out of Chaos".

Today, Scott trains leaders and teams to negotiate better deals, resolve conflict, and thrive under intense pressure. In this fascinating conversation, he reveals how to regulate your emotions when the stakes are high, avoid common negotiation pitfalls, keep stalled talks on track, and ultimately reach a favorable resolution.

Scott distills his hard-earned negotiation wisdom into key insights like managing your mindset first, practicing deep listening to understand the other side's perspective, and building rapport before making requests.

Having spent over a decade negotiating with hostage-takers and criminals (“businessmen looking for a great deal”), Scott's strategies for navigating uncertainty and conflict are indispensable for anyone who has to deal with difficult conversations.

Listen on Spotify and Apple:


How to Craft Messages That Win Big

In our increasingly complex and noise-filled world, clear communication is becoming both rarer and more essential. In "Simply Put: Why Clear Messages Win―and How to Design Them", marketing thought leader Ben Guttmann shows how to distill any message down to its purest, most persuasive form.

Drawing from psychology, neuroscience, and design thinking principles, Guttmann provides actionable strategies to break through the clutter.

You'll learn to:

  • simplify dense language
  • uncover your audience's true needs
  • apply the 5 principles of messages that win big.

If you want to follow Einstein’s advice and keep everything "as simple as possible, but not simpler,” Ben’s short and sharp book comes highly recommended. (spoiler: Ben will be on the podcast in June).

Check out my post on the book and the 5 principles of sticky messages here.

Have an inspired weekend!



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