• We live in an age of information overload. Too much information to process in fact. Data, data everywhere nor any drop to drink. The irony, of course, is that we remain thirsty for more. But how to know what to consume and what to decline? Everyone around us faces the same dilemma every second of every day. So when we present ourselves, our projects and our enterprises to people we need to ensure our story is compelling and appetising. The narrative needs to be coherent, the characters engaging and the outcomes emotionally rewarding. And we need to do all of that in less time and with more distractions than ever before.

    This is the age of the elevator pitch. Your story needs to get you and your travelling companions as quickly as possible between start and destination; we no longer have the time or appetite for epics. Beowulf and the Hydra belong to a by-gone age – this is the age of the sound bite.

    I used to work with a colleague who said that our company elevator pitch needed a very tall building and a very slow elevator. What he never mentioned (or seemed to notice), was that it also needed a very patient audience. He had a stubborn refusal to cut any of the elements, so the story went back into the mists of time to find its beginning and meandered through all sorts of irrelevant side plots, digressions and twists that didn’t get our audience (the people we should have cared about) any nearer the conclusion. Such a shame because the ‘slow elevator, tall-building’ opening is a strong one. But our actual delivery should have confounded the notion, not endorsed it. We weren’t sitting around a camp-fire waiting through the night for the hunting party to return.

    There is a reason that fairy tales, myths and legends have endured for so long. Stories and sharing those stories is fundamental to what it means to be human. Many of the great myths are common across cultures, and the components and building blocks of story-telling are universal. As indeed are the concept, character and challenges the hero faces. There’s a standard path to the narrative of all heroes, from Hercules to Robin Hood, Cinderella to Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy to Luke and Buzz Lightyear to Emmet.

    The basic way of telling a story is hard-wired into human DNA so everyone, even those raised by wolves, is able to do the basics. And you can see the basics in every story everywhere: literary novels, soap operas, gangster movies, comic books, video games, broadsheet newspapers, trashy magazines.

    And that's the big challenge. We’re not just overwhelmed by information in the modern world, we’re overwhelmed by high-quality, well-presented information. We’re used to imaginative narrative structures, compelling characters, succinct story-lines, external references, flashbacks, witty asides and endings that surprise and delight – all the while confirming to our hard-wired ideas. This is not an age in which you can tell a dated story. Or rather, you can tell a dated story, but you have to tell it in a modern fashion.

    Selling yourself and your idea to clients, engaging with partners, presenting to prospective investors and of course networking effectively at events mean that never before has the story-telling skill been so vital to the business armoury. Just make sure you've got your story straight.