How to find stories for your blog post, newsletter, report, workshop, presentation

January 18, 2018 Blog Admin Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.0 out of 5


Remembering stories is a powerful skill. Including a story into the opening of a workshop, an e-discussion or your next presentation engages your audience. People love reading stories in blog post or newsletters; the stories allow you to underline your point. But how can you find stories? This blog shares 10 simple ways to retrace, notice, collect or reactivate stories.

 Nadia von Holzen, Learning Moments

You want to use stories for your next blog post, newsletter, quarterly report? You are looking for a compelling story to open your next workshop or e-discussion? “Mmmmh…., a story?” None is coming to mind? Sometimes stories are like butterflies. If you don’t catch them the moment they fly by, the story is gone.

So, how can you find stories?

Credit: United Workers Media Team Celebration - published on Flickr CC

Credit: United Workers Media Team Celebration – published on Flickr CC


Notice stories

“Where do I find stories?”  I think the answer has less to do with where to look and more to do with knowing what a story is in the first place.
Rob Rosenthal 

The storytellers from Anecdote say the first step is to notice stories; to become a storyteller you must become a story spotter. The infographic below helps to develop a feel for the elements of story: A specific moment (time and place), the protagonist involved and the dialogue between the protagonists, a sequence of events (something is happening), and a moment of change (the turning point in the story).

The first thing to do is to keep an ear out for time markers. You’ll be surprised at just how many stories start this way and it’s a great way to start noticing stories around you.
Shawn Callahan 

Infographic by Anecdote:

Spotting Oral Stories

PS: Anecdote invites you to take the story test:

Collect stories

As story spotter, it is easy to collect stories. Write the stories down: in a story booklet, a journal, on index cards pinned to the team’s white board, virtually on Evernote, or on the shared drive of your team. Outline the sequence of events, the character(s), place and time in rough words; give the story a title; add some words about what the story means to you; and when to use it.

Stories are inspired by stories

The informal coffee break is a good place for story spotting. Someone tells a story and that story is prompted by another story. Bring stories to the team meeting; your story might trigger more stories. Starting a team meeting with a short round of ‘stories of the month” also helps to develop and sharpen your team’s story mind.

Continue “old” stories

Another approach to find stories is to revisit old stories: What has happened in the meantime?

Take a look at your past work. See if there’s a story worth revisiting. Find out what’s new, what’s developed, what’s happened since you last reported the story that’s surprising and unexpected. In short, make the time between stories work to your advantage.
Rob Rosenthal 

Always ask for examples

With a story mind, you notice the potential stories behind opinions, statements and generalisations. Ask your talking partner for an example, a specific moment, to make her opinion concrete. There might be a valuable story.

Look, Listen and Ask. Observe people in action – where could that story be hiding? Listen to what people are telling each other – perhaps the story is embedded in what they are saying. Ask questions to find out where a story might be found.
Mary Alice Arthur

Work out loud

Let colleagues, partners and friends know that you are a story collector. Work out loud (WOL), share your work in progress and invite colleagues to make contributions to your next newsletter, blog post, speech, presentation.

You look for stories in your projects, programmes and initiatives?

Reactivate stories through a timeline

A timeline is a good way to retrace stories. Draw a timeline of your project on a sheet of paper and define the time frame, then add important milestones of your project or initiative (events, deadlines, visits, reports etc.). Jointly with the team, comb through your experiences, listen carefully and uncover the hidden stories: What has happened? Who was present? What feelings can we remember? Was there a moment of change, conflict or tension; a breakthrough?

Photos and artefacts

Photos or other little souvenirs from team retreats, field visits, conferences and flipcharts, documents, websites, and newsletters help to remember stories. Flipping through the photos brings forgotten memories back. Remembering events, places, people,  and times helps to reactive stories.

Story circle

An oral story circle brings storytellers together; you focus on sharing, discovering and shaping your stories.

Sharing story ideas in the circle helps clarify what the stories are really about. It is an intense group process of joint reflection and inquiry that is meaningful for everyone involved.
Darcy Alexandra and Nadia von Holzen

You can find some ideas how to organize a story circle


Questions trigger stories. Or you can use the interview technique in small settings (in pairs or trios) in the search for forgotten stories.

We learned that questions that brought the listener to a point in time worked well. So did the questions that conjured an emotion or a strong mental picture.
Mark Schenk and Shawn Callahan

Anecdote offers a free e-book with 170 story-eliciting questions: Character Trumps Credentials: 170 questions that help leaders find and tell great stories.

What’s your approach to find stories?

Related posts


finding stories unplash

Interviews Part II: Vom guten Fragen & Unterbrechen

November 14, 2017 Natalie Frei Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences

Rating: 4.0 out of 5


Nach dem Vorgespräch fängt die Arbeit erst richtig an. Wie muss ich fragen, um die gewünschten Antworten zu erhalten? Wie steige ich ein und wie unterbreche ich? Dieser Blog behandelt das Vorgehen beim eigentlichen Interview.

Hansjörg Enz


Interviews Part I: Kein Interview ohne Vorgespräch

November 07, 2017 Natalie Frei Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

IMG_3667Besser ein Videointerview als ein hundertseitiger Bericht. Aber die Aufmerksamkeitsspanne ist auch bei Videos eher kurz, deshalb müssen sie gut geplant und durchdacht sein, damit die Zuschauer nicht wegklicken. Eines der wichtigsten Instrumente für ein gelungenes Interview ist das Vorgespräch.

Hansjörg Enz (more…)

Creating common ground for working together – what it needs and why it matters

May 17, 2017 Blog Admin Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.4 out of 5

Jany picture


Workshop space is precious space we want to use wisely. Creating the right conditions is the facilitator’s job. It is part of the design process to think about how to create these conditions and the ambiance conducive for working and learning together in a productive and inspiring way. In this blog post, we share our reflection on what it takes and why it matters to create a common ground for working together.

By Jany Barraut, Beyond Boundaries and Nadia von Holzen, Learning Moments (more…)

Infographics , why bother?

May 03, 2017 Natalie Frei Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

Portrait_Gabriela MontorziInfographics are great visual tools for clearly communicating complex issues. They transform concepts into accessible and concrete messages. They highlight key information, improve practical observation and reveal connections not visible otherwise. (1)

By Gabriela Montorzi, Scientific Infographics (more…)

Mind map = c’est penser avec stylo

April 26, 2017 Blog Admin Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.4 out of 5


Une mind map – carte mentale ou heuristique – ressemble à un couteau suisse : c’est attractif et pratique. Cette méthodologie visuelle ne passe pas de mode. Elle est toujours moderne, attrayante, puissante.  Qui plus est, c’est facile et rapide. Finalement, sa dimension visuelle permet d’identifier les connexions et les schémas ce qui sert de base pour agir.

Nadia von Holzen, Learning Moments (more…)

Let’s Draw

February 01, 2017 Blog Admin Let's Talk Visual

Rating: 4.6 out of 5

Caro van LeeuwenWhen I started my internship at SDC I’d never have thought that drawing would become so important in my work. Sometimes you just don’t find material to visualize what you want to say. This makes me grab my pencil and draw – and it adds a new twist to the presentation! You say you don’t have the talent to draw? Try and exercise and you will see: it is not that difficult. This video is meant to encourage you to discover your drawing skills, too! 

Caro Van Leeuwen, SDC (more…)

Communicating innovative ideas with video

December 01, 2016 Leonie Pock Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


The play button is the most compelling call to action on the web” says Michael Litt, CEO and co-founder of Vidyard, a platform hosting business video content for distribution to websites and social channels. Not very surprising quote considering his position, you may say. But the success of the company reflects also the importance of video not only in marketing but also in other forms of communication. In this blog post, we want to have a closer look at the benefits of video in communication and introduce Lightbulb – a new format for sharing new and innovative learning experiences of SDC collaborators, units and networks. By Leonie Pock


Value-creation stories for monitoring the value of networks

November 01, 2016 Leonie Pock Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.3 out of 5

Beverly Wenger-TraynerIn SDC learning is taking place in the networks – learning about approaches, about experiences and about good practices. The networks meet regularly in f2f-events in order to engage in this learning. But does it have an effect? What is the outcome of these events? By Beverly Wenger-Trayner, co-author of the Value Creation Framework




11½ ideas when to use a digital story

July 13, 2016 Blog-Admin1 Change Stories, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.6 out of 5


We made stories. Making stories is great learning. This we know, this we experienced. Using stories is the next step. In knowledge communication there are many options to integrate digital stories into sharing and learning processes.  In this blog post we collected 11 ½ ideas for you how to use your story or stories created by your colleagues.

Carmen Eckert, Leonie Pock and Nadia von Holzen, SDC (more…)

Dare to facilitate

May 25, 2016 Blog-Admin1 Change Stories, Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Facilitation is (also) a question of confidence, of daring to “stand there” and to be the facilitator. But first facilitation is a question of good preparation and of getting the 3 Ps clear: purpose, people and process. The key task of a facilitator is helping the organisers to clarify the purpose of the workshop, to understand people’s needs and questions, and to design a good process that is interactive, relevant and meaningful. 

Nadia von Holzen, SDC 


Physical Design of Space to Support Learning

May 18, 2016 Leonie Pock Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.6 out of 5

Polona SirnikJana Repanšek_smallLearning being in the center of our work, we are constantly thinking of innovative ways to   bring it to the next level. Based on our substantial study of theories of learning and change, we about a year ago decided to devote our attention to the question of how physical design of the environment supports learning. We have teamed up with an architect to help us translate our understanding of learning into the physical design of our lobby that became an important part of our learning space.

By Polona Sirnik and Jana Repanšek, Center of Excellence in Finance (CEF)


Kanban – an amazing technique to get a grip on your work

April 26, 2016 Leonie Pock Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.8 out of 5

nadjaschnetzler_1321302641_63Kanban is a Japanese word which signifies «visual signal». In the industry, for instance in car production kanbans are used to singnalize important information in the workflow: When do I need to reorder materials, for instance. The idea of kanban has spread to other industries in the last 15 years. Two pioneers of kanban in knowledge work are David Anderson and Jim Benson. They started using kanban to optimize the flow of work for individuals, teams or whole organisations. If you are interested in their work, you can read «Personal Kanban» by Jim Benson and Tonianne de Maria Barry or «Kanban – successful evolutionary change for your organisaton» by David Anderson. Using kanban for your own individual work is fairly straightforward and easy. What is demanding is to keep using it and evolving with it. 

By Nadja Schnetzler


Are you preparing social reporting for your next face-to-face meeting? Here are 6 points to remember

March 09, 2016 Leonie Pock Methods & Tools, SDC Networks

Rating: 4.8 out of 5

Nadia von HolzenThe idea behind social reporting during a learning event is not only to jointly produce a report and reach out to a wider audience. The beauty of social reporting is that it adds an additional layer of reflection to the workshop conversation. This blog post gives some tips how to include participants and how to make the task of the social reporting team doable and meaningful. The most important of the 6 tips is: Prepare what you can prepare and be flexible at the workshop.

Nadia von Holzen, SDC


Joint Learning on Pastoralism – a process of experience capitalization among SDC Programme Officers

March 03, 2016 Leonie Pock Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Manuel Flury SDC Programme Officers of West Africa and the Horn of Africa engaged in a joint learning process on pastoralism. In a series of meetings they collected, synthesized and exchanged experiences in eight key topics of this area. Manuel Flury and Charlotte Nager take a step back and reflect about the added value and the limitations of such an experience capitalization process.

By Manuel Flury, SDC, Addis Ababa and Charlotte Nager, SDC, Berne


Documenting the process: The long road to a good story

December 23, 2015 Blog-Admin1 Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences, SDC Networks

Rating: 4.6 out of 5

Hynek X-masThis post tells the story of documenting a learning process. The initiative to systematize experiences in the area of pastoralism was launched in collaboration with the Agriculture and Food Security network. The Learning & Networking team decided to document exactly this process. Two ‘reporters’, Charlotte Nager and Hynek Bures, joined the workshop in Kenia, where around 20 people gathered to learn from each others’ experiences in the field of pastoralism. While the participants were involved in thematic thinking the two ‘reporters’ added an additional layer of reflection. This challenging endeavor will hopefully inspire future stories about learning.

By Hynek Bures, dubbed perceptions (more…)

Creative Facilitation – an inspiring book for facilitators

November 18, 2015 Blog-Admin1 Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


The new facilitation book by Viv McWaters and Johnnie Moore for designing and conducting inspiring and creative meetings is available online. It is a book about the art of facilitation. The book is an invitation to reflect our role and our understanding as facilitators. It is not a book about techniques; it is a book about BEING the facilitator.

By Nadia von Holzen, SDC


Sharing knowledge and experiences: create events that inspire and set free energy for work

October 07, 2015 Blog-Admin1 Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.8 out of 5

My personal social media storyLet’s create learning events that really generate motivation and impulses for our work! This blog post suggests three approaches how to plan for more inspiring and powerful events: ask more than you tell; inquire one case deeply; and make it a learning experience for all senses.

Corinne Sprecher, Agridea


How to make sense in a complex environment

September 23, 2015 Blog-Admin1 Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.6 out of 5

During a 4 days-training, Dave Snowden, the founder of Cognitive Edge, introduced his audience to the challenges, risks and opportunities of working in complex environments. With the Cynefin-framework he proposes a tool to get a better understanding of the working environment and the appropriate strategies in order to be effective. Collecting stories from all the involved stakeholders is in his view the only way for making sense.

By Charlotte Nager, SDC (more…)

Learning together – what it needs and what it means

August 26, 2015 Blog-Admin1 Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.7 out of 5
Thank you for voting!

Nadia von HolzenBringing together 95 learning practitioners does not provide a guarantee to joint learning nor community forming. Learning together needs space for joint inquiry and deliberation. Learning together needs true and deep conversations. Conversations are connecting and connections are the condition for deep conversations.

 Nadia von Holzen, SDC

Challenged by planning a learning event? Make it easy and visual with ‘Design for Wiser Action’

July 29, 2015 Blog-Admin1 Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences

Rating: 4.6 out of 5

SKU-WSJ-VONNAPlanning and designing a workshop involves many aspects; and often many people too. A visual planning canvas might be the right approach to make the first crucial move. Bring the organizing team, the core group or the mandate giver to the table and do the planning jointly.

By Nadia von Holzen, Mirjam Walser and Kuno Schläfli, SDC


Meetings can be done differently: The Flipchart–Chat

July 22, 2015 Blog-Admin1 Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.4 out of 5

Corinne-SprecherMeetings can be fun, interactive and productive. The ‘flipchart-chat’ is a good way to really discuss a hot issue at your next staff meeting.

Corinne Sprecher, Agridea (more…)

Knowledge Café for conversations that matter

July 08, 2015 Blog-Admin1 Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.7 out of 5
Thank you for voting!


“It is fundamental to have conversations with each other.” These are the words of David Gurteen, the founder of the Knowledge Café. A Knowledge Café is a simple process allowing people to engage in meaningful conversations to have deeper insights, to understand issues that are complex and challenging and to be in the position to make better decisions.

By Kuno Schläfli, Mirjam Walser and Nadia von Holzen, SDC (more…)

The Beauty of Mind Maps

June 10, 2015 Blog-Admin1 Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

Nadia von HolzenThe beauty of a mind map is its simplicity. You can do it almost everywhere. In its basic form all you need is paper and pen. The process of visualizing a question is powerful. Mind maps help thinking and keep conversations focused.

Nadia von Holzen, SDC


3 simple ideas to pep up your next “presentation event”

June 03, 2015 Blog-Admin1 Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Corinne-SprecherWe have all experienced the format “presentation followed by discussion”. Do it differently and go beyond the well-known pattern in the next event you facilitate. Get inspired by three methods that are really easy to apply: buzz groups, voting and fishbowl.

Corinne Sprecher, Agridea (more…)