Article Category: Book Reviews

Book Review: The Story Factor (Annette Simmons)


The Story FactorThe Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling has one consistent message: that storytelling is a critical skill for business communication and public speaking.

Author Annette Simmons weaves hundreds of stories into The Story Factor. These stories — drawn from cultures around the world — illustrate well the power of story in conveying lessons.

I discovered this public speaking book two years ago in my Toastmasters club library. When I picked up the book again recently to write this review, I was delighted to reacquaint myself with several stories that I have since adopted into my own speaking repertoire.

One of my favorites is embossed on the front cover of the first edition:

A man came upon a construction site where three people were working. He asked the first, What are you doing? and the man answered, I am laying bricks.

He asked the second, What are you doing? and the man answered, I am building a wall.

He walked up to the third man, who was humming a tune as he worked and asked, What are you doing? and the man stood up and smiled and said, I am building a cathedral.

The Six Stories You Need To Know How To Tell

The first chapter opens with this strong title, and proceeds to list the six types of stories which “will serve you well in your efforts to influence others“:

  1. “Who Am I” Stories
  2. “Why Am I Here” Stories
  3. “The Vision” Story
  4. “Teaching” Stories
  5. “Values-in-Action” Stories
  6. “I Know What You Are Thinking” Stories

Since reading this book, I see and hear these stories everywhere. Two years of observations have convinced me that these types of stories have universal appeal. Those who can draw upon these stories have tremendous influence. Perhaps there is some overlap among the six, and perhaps there are other important story types, but I return often to these types of stories in my speaking.

Where’s the Five-Step Recipe to Telling a Story?

KittenIf there is a fault in this book, it is that you can easily read it and still not be a good, let alone master, storyteller. This book will inspire you to become a master storyteller, but it does not provide any five-step magical recipes. The author addresses this in the opening:

Explaining storytelling is like explaining a kitten. We all know about kittens. We have wonderful memories of kittens — children holding kittens, watching kittens play, petting a kitten. Our memories are a meaningful whole. Trying to break [stories] down into pieces is like cutting a kitten in half in order to understand it. Half a kitten isn’t really half a kitten. Breaking storytelling down into pieces, parts, and priorities destroys it.

Story FactorWho Should Read this Book?

Anyone who speaks — whether formally or informally — will benefit from reading this book.

If you think that storytelling is nice for Dr. Seuss, but has no place in your business or speaking life, this book will challenge your beliefs.

If you already recognize the power of storytelling, you will find many gems to add to your repertoire.

Get a copy, read this book, and share it with your colleagues.

I enjoyed this book immensely. I hope you will too.

The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling by Annette Simmons Andrew Dlugan 2.5 February 13, 2008 Makes a strong case of the power of storytelling to influence and inspire, in both public speaking and business communications.
Discusses the different types of stories that every speaker must be able to tell. Weaves numerous stories through the book.

This article is one of a series of public speaking book reviews featured on Six Minutes.
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