Response to Digital Storytelling Scholarship: #7

*I am currently working my way through my fourth semester of the Information and Learning Technologies master’s program at University of Colorado, Denver.  This is the seventh post within a series of responses to digital storytelling resources that I’ve been assigned to write for a course titled Digital Storytelling.

Lately I have been responding to some incredible digital storytelling resources (here, here, and here), but this week I chose to find a “scholarship” to read and “learn me some things”.  During my search on “how to tell a story in a business setting” (because I’ve been wondering how learning about digital storytelling can help me in my current real world situation), I stumbled upon a great article from the Harvard Business Review titled, How to Tell a Great Story by Carolyn O’Hara.  Ms. O’Hara writes about how to use stories in a business setting, stories that can support a project, stories that help explain to an employee how he might improve, and stories that inspire a team that is facing challenges.How to Tell a Story

Ms. O’Hara mentions that “stories create “sticky” memories by attaching emotions to things that happen”.  This reminded me very much of a book I read for another course in this master’s program, titled, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Stick and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (you can read chapter 1 here for free!).  The underlying concept is that ideas and stories that “stick” create and cultivate success.  And although Ms. O’Hara wrote this article for a business setting, I feel that her content can be applied to multiple storytelling settings.

According to Ms. O’Hara, there are six key elements for telling a story:

  1. Start with a message – Each decision about your story should flow from these questions: Who is your audience and what is the message you want to share with them?
  2. Mine your own experiences – The best storytellers look to their own memories and life experiences for ways to illustrate their message.
  3. Don’t make yourself the hero – The more you celebrate your own decisions, the less likely your audience will connect with you and your message.
  4. Highlight a struggle – A story without a challenge simply isn’t very interesting.
  5. Keep it simple – Some of the most successful and memorable stories are relatively simple and straightforward.
  6. Practice makes perfect – Practice with friends, loved ones, and trusted colleagues to hone your message into the most effective and efficient story.

And several principles to remember:


  • Consider your audience — choose a framework and details that will best resonate with your listeners.
  • Identify the moral or message your want to impart.
  • Find inspiration in your life experiences.


  • Assume you don’t have storytelling chops — we all have it in us to tell memorable stories.
  • Give yourself the starring role.
  • Overwhelm your story with unnecessary details.

story telling