Testing success can be reliant on good storytelling. 
How to tell better stories?

How’s life


  • Busy starting to plan conferences and customer trips, the usual.


  • Good Christmas, slowly getting into the new year. As usual, big plans but we’ll see how the year goes. I’m going to be speaking at two confirmed conferences this year. EPIC conference, by Techwell, in San Diego in April – and then ExpoQA in Madrid in June where I’m part of the program team too. And yes, I’m still writing the book about squirrels.

In my many many many years as a tester and conference speaker, I’ve met loads of really great testers. Many of these great testers are bashing their head against a brick wall when it comes to bringing about change in an organization. It’s partly why I created the communication workshop that I sometimes bring to testing conferences.

They are bashing their head against a wall because they have great ideas but they don’t seem to be able to land them, get people behind them, convince leaders to support them, or roll them out successfully. I still today, get lots of questions about how to bring about change in their teams, departments or organizations.

The simple answer, being able to tell compelling stories. And yes, it’s not just about individual testers telling stories, sometimes you need the head of the testing table to be telling stories too – whether this be Dev Managers, Test Managers or some other role power figure.

So in today’s podcast, we’re going to talk about how to tell better stories.

Why tell stories?

  • Stories are the best way to bring about change.
  • Whether that be changing the way you do testing, introducing a new tech or maybe you’re trying to roll out the dreaded agile ways of working. Change is always needed in our businesses, and as testers we should always be looking for ways to change ourselves and the way we work – assuming there is room for improvement – which, trust me, there always is.
  • When we are trying to change people I like to refer back to the word motion. We’re trying to get people into motion. Moving. Traveling. Changing. Being moved.
  • When you trace the history of the word motion it shares it’s past with emotion. Which is about feeling something, about being stirred to action.
  • So how do you get people to move and change and take a new direction – you make them feel something. You pull on their heartstrings, appeal to their better senses
  • Emotions are what causes people to move, to change.

Facts and Stories

  • It’s natural for people, when talking about change to present facts, but stories go where facts cannot.
  • When I see people present ideas for change it usually follows something like this.
  • They’ve done some analysis, they have numbers, facts, and data.
  • They’ve made a decision about the possible options.
  • And if you haven’t done these two steps then don’t expect anyone to change off the back of it. We must have these things.
  • But we then share our facts with others. We are excited. But they don’t get it, or buy-in, or are skeptical.
  • But why would we assume they get it?
  • They didn’t contribute to the plan. They didn’t feel the same things about this as we did. They didn’t have an emotional connection.
  • So our job when we’re leading change is to help others understand our plan at an emotional level.
  • We feel emotion around OUR plan, but we must not assume others feel it too.
  • When we decide on something doesn’t mean others will see that it has been rightly decided upon. We must convince them.
  • And this is done through stories, visuals and other ways of helping feel some emotion around the change.
  • It’s why we use User Stories, create personas and avatars. It’s why infographics reign supreme and dashboards are the new thing.

So how do you tell good stories?

  • PACC – Purpose Audience Context Content
  • About people
  • Overcoming obstacles
  • Being better on the other side
  • Should I invest my energy in this? What’s in it for me?
  • Simple language, use visuals
  • People remember how you make them feel
  • Focus on solving a problem, tell stories about people
  • Explain how people will become better, different, richer, cleverer – something advantages after the change
  • Let people use their imaginations still. There’s some science behind the fact that if you start a meeting or conversations by asking people to imagine an amazing beach holiday they on – just imagine being laid there with a drink, on the beach, by the sea – they are more receptive to your ideas. You’ve changed their mood – you’ve pulled on their heartstrings. You’ve got their attention.
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