GHC19: Hooked on Story

I don’t need to convince you of the power of story.  Or how it makes ideas resonate and have impact in a way that data and facts never will.  Story also and data aren’t mutually exclusive.

Despite title of this workshop,  the storytelling framework isn’t confined to only technical problems.   You can apply this advice at any time that you are making a pitch.

Story Types

  • Personal. Examples could include a mistake that you made; lessons that you wish you had known; or a long-shot goal that you are striving towards.
  • Hypothetical. You might use these when the story that doesn’t apply to you, or you are trying to add confidentiality to the story.  Imagine is a great way to begin these stories.
  • Data-driven.


Now, that you know some of the story types that you can use to make your case.   What do your story need?  A hook.

Write sentences that build curiosity about what’s going to happen next.  It creates tension that pulls the user in and keeps their attention.

When my son learned how to write stories in elementary school, what his teachers referred to as “bold beginnings”  are hooks. Hooks come first and then can be past experiences; relatable, memorable, succinct.   Good hooks also incorporate vulnerability and credibility.

Addicted to crack?!  Two sentences into your speech. Holy sh*t from that point, I hung on every word at my local Toastmaster’s club.    His revelation was an act of vulnerability.  When he went on to discuss overcoming addiction, he had credibility.

Called to Action

Okay, so you used your hook to pull the reader in, you followed on with the relevant info, now you want to finish it up with the concrete actions that what you want from the reader.

Here’s a great read from Matt Watts’ on this idea of finishing with a call to action:  Stop ending with a thank you

My example (in-progress)

Imagine that where you grew up poor. In a place, where no one had a computer, your single-mother relied on public assistance, and you didn’t know anyone that graduated from college.  Sounds like a sentence of poverty, right?  However, you overcame the odds and ended up in the tech industry where you make enough money to leave poverty far behind.

Where were these career journey sessions at #GHC19 or speakers from these socio-economic backgrounds?  Grace Hopper Celebrations has rallied to establish tech equity and create a diverse, inclusive workforce.  However, socioeconomic status seems forgotten when a large portion of their speakers come from a position of privilege like top-notch schools and jobs at Fortune 50 companies.   

I don’t want to denigrate these women’s accomplishments or struggles. However, where is the diversity? Where are the self-taught women who used tech to pull themselves out of poverty? Where are the women like me? They didn’t speak at the Grace Hopper Celebration. 

How can we change this? Remember that diversity is so much more than race or gender.  If you know women who came from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds that found tech, encourage them to tell their stories by submitting sessions to Grace Hopper Celebration.

Additional Resources

Workshop slides: