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What Makes a Great User Story?

By: MPI Toronto Chapter Board of Directors | Published by MPI Toronto Chapter | Feb 27, 2019

Great stories make your product or service real and are an important part of every businesses’ success. Unfortunately, when most of us try to write stories we create dull, grammatically correct masterpieces that have no lasting impact.

Most stories fail because of the idea that stories sell; that they can start, build and complete a transaction. I wish they could but unfortunately stories cannot sell! Stories can, however, begin to build an important relationship and be part of a well-planned sales program.

Instead, consider the main purpose of a successful story is to keep your audience entertained long enough for them to experience a feeling. Then, once your story is written, quotes can be pulled and used in any number of places. If you try to do more, you’re putting all of your efforts at risk.

Consider any car commercial – an industry with enough money and experience to know what they’re doing. In a one-page advertisement or a 15-second commercial, car companies share stories that encourage us to feel a combination of emotions like excitement, confidence, pride and envy. Only in passing are the practical and immediately forgettable features like fuel efficiency referenced. Why? Because people remember what they feel, and facts bore them and will stop them wanting to learn more.

To build a great story I recommend being absolutely certain about the answers to two important questions: what feelings do I want my audience to experience? and why are those feelings important? The answers will drive all of your other choices and decisions.

Great stories evoke emotions... and emotions are gold!

Emotions are the foundation of trusting relationships. You wouldn’t buy electronics out of a van sitting in a parking lot. Why? Because you don’t trust the guy or the quality of the product. The same goes for your audience. Nobody is going to register for a conference they have never heard of, donate to your cause or buy your services until they trust you. When they trust you will your new friend be open to learning more.

Only you can answer what emotions you should choose and define, but to help I’ve framed up a few examples:

• Excitement – I want that!
• Exhilaration – These people are empowering themselves
• Compassion – Look how easy it is to help 
• Pride – This will help me be successful  

                             Stories should not read like feature and benefit sheets.

Once you have your objective(s) clearly defined I encourage you to not get too detailed within your story. Leave room for your audience to use their imagination and see themselves in your story.

If you succeed in entertaining your audience and helping them feel your targeted emotion, then you should feel proud. You’ll have begun earning their trust and your audience will be willing to learn more. #Goal #Opportunity

“Trust is like the air we breathe – when it’s present, nobody really notices; when it’s absent, everybody notices.” — Warren Buffett

If your audience wants to buy right away then that’s great. Always make their ability to buy easy. Notice I said their ‘ability to buy’; this is a marked difference from making them feel sold to. It’s an art to be both subtle and obvious. More realistically, your audience will likely think they want to learn more… and that’s OK. Your relationship still has to be on your audiences’ terms. If they feel pushed, you’ll likely lose them and never get them back.

In closing, I encourage you to not limit yourself with how you share your stories. Stories can be told in many ways and used in many places. They can be written, video or even in still photographs. Their flexibility is only limited to your imagination… and what will keep your audience entertained.

Bruce Mayhew

About the writer:

Bruce Mayhew is an executive coach, corporate trainer and conference speaker who helps his clients build employee and customer loyalty. Speak to Bruce about how to plan and design stories your business can use to build trust and excitement with new and existing clients @BMCtrainercoach or at



MPI Toronto Chapter Board of Directors | Published by MPI Toronto Chapter

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