There are many reasons why you might share a story in a meeting at work – perhaps it’s a great analogy for the problem you’re tackling, or maybe you want to talk about how you dealt with similar problems in the past. Whatever story you choose to tell – be aware that you’ve only got a short time to tell it – 60-90 seconds at most.

When facing a time deadline like that, it’s important to ensure that the story you are telling is concise, clear and to the point. A great way of doing that is to apply some structure.

I’ve found a great structure for an anecdote – personal or otherwise – is the 4Cons.

The 4Cons story structure works like this. Every good story needs:

  • A conclusion – the reason why you are telling the story.
  • A context – the world at the beginning of the story – if you’re telling a personal story then all you need to explain is some historical and geographical details – “I was 17 when…” or “When I was on holiday in Greece last year the strangest thing happened…”
  • A complication – the problem or challenge you had to overcome. (Yes, I know this one doesn’t start with Con)
  • A consequence or consequences – how you overcame that challenge and what you learned as a result, which brings us back to the conclusion.

For example, a story I frequently tell could be broken down as follows;

  • Conclusion: don’t use images from Google Image search
  • Context: About 15 years ago I was working as a new business assistant
  • Complication: I had to source a hi-res logo image for a client we were pitching for. I found one on Google Image search.
  • Consequence: It wasn’t the right logo, we didn’t win the pitch and I was lucky not to lose my job.

Now written down like that it doesn’t sound like an amazing story. It sounds a bit bland.

But it’s okay because even reading it word for word it only lasts 13.5 seconds. I’ve got another minute’s worth of time to tell it well, but because I’ve pared it back to its bare bones – the skeleton of the story so to speak – I can now decide what I want to add back in, rather than having the harder job of starting with a 2-3 minute tale and having to decide what to cut.


Photo by Shopify Partners from Burst


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