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The Eight Principles of Inspiring Storytelling

[fa icon="calendar"] 29-Sep-2014 09:00:00 / by Iliyana Stareva

When was the last time you principles of inspiring storytellingsaw a presentation, visited a seminar or watched a speech that kept your full attention throughout the entire time? That's a hard one, isn't it? The last time I had such an experience was a few days ago when I watched Emma Watson's speech, introducing her HeForShe campaign at the U.N. Headquarters last week. Her words not only kept me 'glued' to the screen, but also made me realise that all inspiring storytelling is based on eight common principles.

It doesn't matter if we are talking about a speech, a video, an email or a social media post – all these communication avenues have the same purpose: to send a message. But to create and deliver that message in a way that really makes an impact and leaves a mark – now that's an art, and a science.

Apart from holding a game-changing speech on feminism, Emma Watson also taught us some important lessons to help us master that art and science.

Written below are the eight principles that, in my opinion, are the cornerstones of inspiring storytelling. You don't have to integrate all of them in a single piece, but they are a guidance of what your story should strive for.

You can use them not only when you're developing a presentation or writing a speech, but for any of your content, or even for any personal interaction. Because at the end of day we communicate with people and tell stories all the time. We share our ideas, thoughts and beliefs with others in every single interaction – be it online, offline or on the phone. Humanising that experience is what connects and inspires.

The Eight Core Principles of Inspiring Storytelling:

  1. Have a purpose and make me wonder

"I decided that I was a feminist. This seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists. Apparently, [women’s expression is] seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, and anti-men, unattractive even."

  1. Be honest and make me listen

"Why is the word such an uncomfortable one? I am from Britain and think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men. But sadly I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights. No country in the world can yet say that they achieved gender equality."

  1. Educate and make me understand

"The more I spoke about feminism, the more I realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain is that this has to stop. For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes."

  1. Engage and make me care

"We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that they are. When they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence. If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled."

  1. Be passionate and make me feel

"What struck me the most was that less than 30% of the audience were male. How can we effect change in the world when only half of it is invited or being welcomed to participate in the conversation?"

  1. Show me the value and involve me in creating more

"Men, I would like to give this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue, too. Because to date, I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society. I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness, unable to ask for help for fear it would make them less of a man. In fact, in the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20 to 49, eclipsing road accidents, cancer and heart disease. I’ve seen men fragile and insecure by what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality, either."

  1. Build trust and make me believe

"Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals. We should stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by who we are."

  1. Ask questions and let me lead

"In my nervousness for this speech and my moment of doubt, I told myself firmly: If not me, who? If not now, when? ... I invite you to step forward, to be seen and ask yourself: If not me, who? If not now, when?"


Do you have more guiding principles for inspiring storytelling?


Topics: Storytelling

Iliyana Stareva

Written by Iliyana Stareva

Iliyana Stareva is the author of Inbound PR - the book that is transforming the PR industry. She's also a keynote speaker and a consultant in inbound and digital for fast-growing companies and agencies. Currently, Iliyana is Program Manager in the Chief of Staff office for CX EMEAR at Cisco where she is the operational leader for all things Customer Success. In her previous roles at HubSpot, she led major cross-functional change for the global Partner Program with her detail-oriented approach to project management and advised hundreds of agencies on how to transform their businesses with inbound and digital. During that time, she earned the globally recognised Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification by the PMI. In her free time, you can find Iliyana writing for her blog, dancing salsa or travelling the world.

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