Written by Eloise Barbier

Why you should add a bit more ‘fairy tale’ to your next conversation

6th March, 2023   •  

What happens in Cinderella?

Even if you haven’t thought of that story in years, you can probably remember some core details – the pumpkin, glass slipper, the happily ever after. Fairy tales have a very clear structure and compelling narrative, which makes them highly memorable – in fact stories are 22 times more memorable than statistics

Are you weaving enough stories in your presentations, with your team, and in conversations with clients?

Why are stories so powerful to use?

At least 80% of our decision making comes from emotion, whether consciously or subconsciously. This is backed up by a lot of research: studies have shown that patients with damage to the part of the brain that processes emotions (the prefrontal cortex) often struggle with making routine decisions.

Stories engage our senses and emotions to allow us to connect to what the other person is saying. For example, let’s say you are listening to your colleague sharing a story about how they tripped over their carpet and fell down the stairs – when hearing this, you will remember a past experience of falling down, and relate to what they are sharing on an emotional and physical level.

This is because our brains love hearing stories. Research shows that the most compelling stories release what David JP Phillips calls the “angel’s cocktail”, which consists of three hormones:

1. Dopamine: is released when we feel anticipation or suspense from a story’s narrative. It helps us focus more and improves our memory

2. Oxytocin: is triggered when we feel empathy for a character or situation, makes us bond with and trust more others around us

3. Endorphins: are released when we laugh or find humour in a story. They relax us and make us more creative

So how can we use this knowledge?

By understanding what emotions  make stories so compelling  (anticipation, empathy, humour), we can engage our audience and influence their decision-making. Stories are a form of social proof that others have been in a similar position, which is reassuring. For example, let’s say your client raises a concern about the suggested time frame on a project. You can share a story about a previous client with a similar concern, and how the time frame worked effectively in that example.

To create the ‘angel’s cocktail’ in our stories , there are three core elements to include:

1. What was the context? Know your audience, adapt to what their motivation, needs and interests are
2. Where was the opportunity or challenge?
3. What was the outcome?

TOOL: the fairy tale structure to share client stories

So how does Cinderella fit into all of this? Fairy tales have a clear structure which makes them very memorable. We can use them as inspiration to share client stories or case studies in a concise, impactful way.

As with all great stories, we start with context. The once upon a time of a fairy tale. What is the context of the story you are sharing? Here, make it as relevant to your audience as possible by taking into account their motivation, needs, interests.

Then enter the dragon! What was your client’s challenge or potential opportunity? Add ‘fire to your dragon’, so ramp up the emotional element of the challenge to evoke empathy and make it compelling.

Share high level how you helped the client. Adapt the level of detail shared here on the story and your audience’s communication style.

And finally, what were the results ? What is the happily ever after? The most impactful stories have clear evidence to support them.

Where are there other opportunities to share stories?

The opportunities are endless, to name a few:

  • When presenting, to engage our audience. This might be in the way we structure our presentation to have an overarching narrative, or by using personal or client anecdotes

  • When working in sales and marketing. It is no wonder that so much is spent on product placement every year ($22.93 billion in 2021) – we link the product to the story that it is associated with, and are influenced to buy

  • When leading a team through change, connecting them to the bigger picture of why this change is happening and what you are working towards

Three key takeaways:

1. Stories are a powerful communication tool to share information in a relatable, memorable way

2. Reflect on how you can use more stories in your work – in presentations, with your team, with clients

3. Use the fairy tale structure when sharing client stories to maximise impact and clarity of delivery


If you would like to learn more about how you or your team can communicate in a more impactful way please get in touch.