How Long Should a Business Story Be?

If you are telling stories for business, how long should those stories be? What time limit should we use? We’re posting bits and pieces of interviews (transcripts from live interviews) done with Sean Buvala over the last few years. Here is one.

Josh: I noticed Sean that you started our phone call today; you began with a story, which I thought was quite appropriate. You used the story about how you got into this and when you went to the school and etc. Obviously the hook you use at the beginning of every presentation is really critical and it was a great hook. My question is, if I’m going to use a story as a rule of thumb how long is too long for a story?

It depends again on your audience and the intimacy you have with that audience. With a group that I know well and I have had many contacts with them, I can tell longer stores. I had a yearlong contract in Evanston, Illinois with a company and the longer I was there, the more complex stories I could use. I believe that if you are advertising a service, you have to be using the service to promote your work. So for me, as a storyteller, to not tell stories is somewhat disingenuous. It would be wrong to say, “Please everyone use stories” but then do a half-an-hour interview phone call without an stories.

Josh: But if I’m speaking to a group that I don’t have any history with, it seems to me I would want my story to be just a couple of minutes long. I would want to get their attention and hopefully rivet them and go on with my business there so to speak

Sean: For new audiences, for example, the Aesop Fables which are probably the most accessible for the average person…the Aesop Fables are a great way to start. It’s important not to start by saying “and now I’m going to tell you a story” because there’s still something culturally happening that people shut that off things with that introduction. So I would just dive in with my story. I would just say “once there was ant” on the story and not worry about setting everything up.

sean buvala shares stories in goodyear arizona Sean Buvala is the director so and has a whole bunch of storytelling training books over at

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