Structuring case studies into compelling stories

Having appreciated the power of telling stories in pitches, it is essential to remember that just because you have various case studies to choose from you mustn’t simply reel them off, point-by-point with no thought as to the relevance of the topic to the audience or without even a nod to simple storytelling techniques.

So what are the best techniques to use here? First off, make sure that your case study is relevant to an issue that your client or client-prospect has identified (or you have identified for them). It must bear some relation to a matter they will recognise and demonstrate that you have the capacity and expertise to solve their problem or achieve their goal.

It is so much more effective to establish that capacity and expertise by telling a relevant story than simply by saying you can do it because you are the best in town.

Next, you will need to look at the case study you are thinking of using and identify no more than three main points that are key to the topic and build it accordingly. There is a danger here that you may feel tempted to put in all the gory details when all the client actually needs to hear is what happened and how you dealt with it. Only include detail that develops the story and adds to your ultimate goal – namely acting for them. To paraphrase Voltaire, ‘if you want to bore your audience, tell them everything.’

Your three points must:

  • Set the scene
  • Identify the issue
  • Explain how you solved it

It is as simple as that. You can use linking phrases such as ‘we had a similar issue recently around such and such’ and use that to lead into your story. The key here is to ensure the story has a point relevant to the panel – rather than being a narcissistic ego trip. Link the story to their need.

A very simple beginning, middle and end structure works here, but don’t be averse to channelling your inner Tarantino and starting in the middle or at the end of your story. Just as long as you include those three main sections the story will work. It breaks up the standard delivery and captures imagination. Equally, a ‘this is where we are; this is where we need to be’ technique can work well here too. For more storytelling techniques, see Storytelling in Business

A word of warning – just because you have gone to the trouble of identifying a few stories, filtered out the relevant detail, thought about attention-grabbing techniques and discreetly primed them up your sleeve doesn’t mean that you have to whip them all out with a flourish. Or any for that matter. Have them there in case the ideal opportunity presents itself rather that give the client the impression that you’ve spent all that time preparing them so you are jolly well going to deliver them come what may!

Luan de Burgh of the de Burgh Group is a professional public speaker and presentation coach. More of his articles can be read here.