Career Skills

Crafting Your Story

with Lee Andrese, Vice President of Learning and Development at AlliedUP Cooperative Inc.

Learn how to create compelling stories for projects you’ve made in this tutorial.


Crafting Your Story

with Lee Andrese

In today’s Take 5 tutorial, I’m going to introduce you to a formula to help you create compelling stories for projects you’ve created.

Stories are key to helping people decide if they want to work with you, invest in your project, or refer you to someone else.

Big Idea, Number 1: I believe there is a good story within every project you’ve done.

The key is to understand the problem that was solved and how well you solved it.

It’s also true that good storytellers get more funding, rate and salary increases, and more resources. So it’s important to craft compelling stories for the work you’ve produced, which brings us to Best Practice, Number 1: Look through your portfolio and select three to five projects that have had the most significant results in the previous three years.

The way that you do that is Big Idea, Number 2: Follow the PAR formula to craft your story. The PAR formula stands for problem, action, result.

To use the PAR formula, answer these three questions: First, what problem did the project solve? Second, what actions did you take to do this project? Third, how successful were you in solving the problem? Let me explain with a story of my own.

Meet Eric. Eric is a high end PowerPoint designer who knew he should be making more money, but didn’t know how to craft a compelling story to get him where he wanted to be. I asked Eric, “Tell me about your most significant accomplishment.” He said, “Well, I designed a PowerPoint presentation for a conference.” Not impressive. So I asked, “What presentation and what conference?”

It turned out that Eric designed a presentation for his company’s new CEO. Not only that, but it was for the company’s worldwide annual investor conference. Not only was this new CEO’s credibility and integrity at stake, but this type of presentation is supposed to drive share prices up. Big difference from just designing a conference presentation, right?

Next, we talked about how he created the presentation. He said, “Well, first I designed it for the CEO’s review.” Again, that didn’t give me much to go on, so I asked the same question in a different way. “What did it take for you to design it?”

Eric said, “I worked with the CEO to understand what impression and experience he wanted the audience to have. I worked with the IT team to determine technical limitations. I collaborated with illustrators, 3D artists, animators, and content writers to create all new images and content. I met weekly with the CEO to review each iteration, did the technical checks, led the dress rehearsals, and modified the presentation accordingly.”

Oh, and we were ready to go two days prior to the conference. Wow, that’s impressive.

Next, I asked Eric, “What impact the presentation made?” He said, “Everyone seemed to like it.” That isn’t going to cut it, either.

Turns out that Eric didn’t know what the feedback was beyond the CEO’s immediate appreciation for his efforts. This is very common for designers. So I asked Eric to go back to the CEO, his manager, and anyone else that could determine what impact the presentation had at the annual conference.

Eric called me a few days later to say that the CEO credited an increase in stock value due to the successful presentation at the conference. Eric’s manager also told him that the conference survey showed that the CEO’s presentation received the highest satisfaction rating out of all conference sessions. Eric now had a compelling story to ask for a raise, so Eric sat down with his manager and made his case.

Two weeks later, he was offered the role of Communications Officer, overseeing C-level communications with a $15,000 salary increase. Which leads us to Big Idea, Number 3: In order to increase your value, you must advance your business acumen.

Meaning understanding how the work you do ties your organization’s business model and their goals.

When you get down to it, all businesses typically work to achieve three common goals: First, increase revenue by offering useful products and services that people will pay for. Second, reduce costs or improve efficiencies to improve the bottom line. Three, improve their brand value, which ties to increased revenue.

Best Practice, Number 2: When a project comes in, ask how it will impact the company, organization, or the team.

Keep asking why until you understand how the project ties to one or more of the business outcomes we just discussed. The way I helped Eric was by asking questions that drew out key pieces of information that took his story from ordinary to extraordinary.

Focus on developing stories based on your business impact. Use the PAR formula to craft it and work with a trusted advisor to make it as strong as possible.

Thank you for joining me. If you like this Take 5 tutorial, be sure to check out the rest of the series and all courses offered by Gymnasium.

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