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Episode 91:  Storytelling with Theresa Francomacaro

Show Notes and Related Links 

Stories will land your message and that’s Why Story Works.

Interview, show notes and links from Theresa Francomacaro, Chief Storyteller at Why Story Works.


They know they want to say something but just don’t know how to say it or what to say. It’s about creating a dialog and understanding the audience. It can’t be all about ‘me’, it needs to be about the audience.

Stories can help clarify your message so that you gain confidence and clarity while also increasing your influence factor. Every person, company or brand has a story to tell – so it’s about how to get to the nugget of what that story is and how to tell it in 2 minutes or less.

3 key ways to avoid Death by Story and How to Tell a 2-Minute Story (link to videos below)


If telling a 2 minute story:

  1. In first 20-30 seconds you want to answer the question “Where were you and what were you doing” – get in there quickly (don’t go down a rabbit hole) – sets up your problem

  2. In the next 60-90 seconds say what changed, “then what happened”, ‘then what happened” and then what finally happened
    – specific is terrific (but not TOO specific so you lose your audience – it needs to serve your story)

  3. Last 20-30 seconds tell why it matters. What do you want your audience to think, do or feel differently as a result of the story you just told.
    - ‘aha moment, ‘My advice to you is…’ but NEVER say ‘To make a long story short….’ – it never is.


With story coaching and story crafting, when you really understand what it is you’re trying to achieve with your message, you can reverse engineer it and find those moments that matter most because those will matter the most to your audience, brand or product launch.

What is the structure or framework for #2:

Signature stories – find out what you value. When you’re speaking stories, you’re speaking from realy stories from things you really value. Storytelling was our first language and we’ve The brain lights up with stories. 7 vs. 3 areas of the brain get activated when you tell a story.

Keep it to 3’s and 5’s bullet points – don’t go too deep. The beginning, the middle and the end. Tried and true tactics that have worked forever. She’s just honing in on the craft.

How do the 5 neurological factors weave into the 3 step process for creating a story in under 2 min?

When she got really tactical, and clients say “I don’t have any idea what to say”. Everybody has too much bandwidth you don’t get specific enough or you get too specific it doesn’t resonate with people.

So there are 5 key things inherent in any good story, emotions that get activated and they are neuro chemical, biology. People want to feel: 

  • love

  • longing

  • hope

  • empathy

  • action


So when you get into that, "Tell me about a time when you felt lonely." They start in! "Tell me about a time when you needed a call to action." Then the stories come in. So when you are able to get to the emotion, people are able to find more of those stories that matter to people. And keeping it really real. And that’s where the emotion comes into play.

We are inherently phenomenal storytellers – we’ve just forgotten. So there’s a technique you can really understand. And once you know that, then the stories are effortless. But you do have to practice.

How to incorporate it into your brand, your story and connecting the dots between the stories and emotions.

How do you use your techniques to attract your ideal customers – whether entrepreneur to Fortune 100 executive leader?

Two ideal customers:

  1. 1:1 person who is a solopreneur or someone who is in the midst of a job transfer and wants to lead change, interview coming up, have a meeting coming up or TED talk and need to hone in on a story.

  2. Group environment, worked with Fortune 500 companies where technology is front and center, and one in particular in the Pacific NW, people in the technology space ‘how am I going to bundle my message?’ so really learning how to sell your ideas is key. When you have a seat at the table, how can you not blow it? Some female entrepreneur clients who suffer from ‘imposter syndrome’ who say isn’t going to matter ‘I’m in this male dominated environment. How can I bring my message forward while still speaking to my company values and be seen as a strategic thought leader and be taken seriously”? If you practice the methods of getting your story straight, have a clear path and know what your audience wants you’ll hit your mark.

How do you incorporate the 5 neurological factors into your process?



Through all the experience of her own theatre company, writing shows and producing in NYC. What that taught her was, the need to understand where the audience wants to go, what’s important to the audience while still having a stake in the story with her objectives.

She’ll take people through performance composition techniques and how to be a really good writer.


Editing, editing, drawing, writing activities, post it notes, get up and move around, set a timer…sometimes when you have a creative process and you set the timer for 20 seconds, you’re forced to think ‘what is the most salient thing” and ‘what is really going to drive it?

She even has props and toys to help with the process. She even has some people who find their avatar during this process. A little different but it’s fun!

She has real key tools like the chunk outline (link below). With that you really have to plot out where you want your story to go. You never want to just wing it. And you also don’t want it to be over scripted or memorized. So there’s a fine line.

Chunk outline:

  • Get the headline or grabber

  • The shortest story was ever written by Hemingway as a bet. He needed some drinking money.


For sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.

Whattttt? It’s a 6 word story? You got a beginning, a middle and an end. It starts creating all kinds of interest and curiosity. He may or may not have actually wrote that story. It actually came from a 1910 Spokane Press, there was a tragedy and a baby’s death, and it revealed the sale of some clothes. So who knows if he ever wrote it.


The idea here is:  if you can be really strategic about the words you choose, you’re going to get your audience to lean in and say ‘how so, tell me more, wow’. Isn’t that what we want in marketing, branding – we want people to hang out with us.

The 2020 marketing international stats the average person spends 35 seconds reading an article or ad. That’s really short. And that the average consumer is bombarded with 100,500 digital words per day and 5.3 trillion ads online. With all that noise out there, you have to stand out. The best way to do that is through an engaging story.

The uncertainty of whether our stories will be found, seen or heard – biggest struggle with most people.


That goes to where your customer is on their journey. For example, when someone is really in the beginning of the customer journey, she tells her clients ‘they need to tell more empathy stories right now, they aren’t quite sure about you.’ Empathy releases the hormone oxytocin  - which is the hormone that gets released when moms are nursing their babies. Mirroring that happens. 'Oh yeah, they are kind of like me.'

The # of touch points to close a sale:


  • At the beginning you may want to tell some empathy stories to release oxytocin

  • Then you want people to fall in love with you. This is the time to tell stories that release dopamine – that’s the hormone that is released when we fall in love. That’s the same feeling you get when you’re scrolling through your feeds and you like, like, like….need that dopamine hit – it only stays in your system for 90 seconds

  • Right now in this COVID world, people are experiencing a lot of stress and releasing a lot of cortisol – what happens with cortisol is it’s focusing the brain with what’s right in front of you – it’s our survival skills, either fight, flight, fear or freeze. So when you have people in cortisol mode, all they can think about is what’s right in front of them. So you probably need to calm down, slow down and maybe not be so worried about the productivity. Just take a deep breath.

  • Or people who are feeling very depleted or spent. They need some hope. They are going to want some stories who want some serotonin. If you want to instill hope in people, you want to tell stories that release serotonin. you’ll want to give people some hopeful stories and take people on a journey from despair to hope.

  • The last is action stories. This is where she sees CEOs at the end of an all-hands on deck meeting or the end of your Zoom your manager is ‘go forth and conquer’ they are trying to release adrenalin for you which will get you going and moving.

So you need to know what story to tell right now. What does audience need? And how am I going to activate those 5 neurological responses inherent in any good story to get my audience where they need to be?

That’s Why Story Works.

How do the 5 neurological responses play into the customer journey and stories along the way?

With sales teams, it’s important to really clear on your core need. You have current state. You have desired state. Then the middle state which is the sell state. That’s where the stories really matter.

So what stories are you going to tell in that story to get people from current state to desired state. You are going to be the solution. You need to craft what story you need in that moment. Ex: a story may have all 5 of the emotional arcs and there’s one that’s really going to resonate. Ex. ‘Would you like to hear a short little story?’ She deconstructs one of her own stories about her sister.

Stories help you find your why. And they help other people understand who you are.

Stories are about the stories that have the most impact or people can relate to the most, who you are and why they should even care.

When we activate that emotion that’s when we get people to action. Actions don’t come from logic, they come from emotion. When you tell a really good story, the amygdala comes to life, wakes up and says ‘pay attention to this!’

Dr. John Medina, neuro scientist called Brain Rules – 12 rules for getting change or learning. Get to activate your buyer, something that’s going to capture their attention, activate emotions , tell something juicy.

The brain responds to a visual image 60,000 times faster and when you wrap your message in a story it will be remembered 20x better than facts and data. It’s proven. Now it’s just figuring out how to flex that muscle.

Her trifecta and her secret sauce – a creative writer, a presenter and a sales person. You put all 3 of those hats together and keep the hat on that meets the need of the time with that client.

Understanding all the story structure and years of her experience has all come together now, she can lean into each one as each is needed with each client.

If you can be in alignment with what you value, you’ll be successful whatever success is for you.


How has COVID changed how you do business?

March 11 last instructor led training with 1 of corporate partners and after that 60% of receivables gone.

March 28 another 30% receivables gone.

So, she had 10% of receivables and had to pivot. So much of what she did was in person – talking, speaking, training, 1:1, etc. She had to change it up, doing more videos, drop in every other week, doing webinars. Helping people understand what they are saying and how they’re saying it. It’s very different when you’re online than if you’re in person.

What she’s grateful for is the resilience, her family, her husband’s business and health.

Be Real. Be relevant. Be brief.


When you tell the right story at the right time to the right audience you’ll get the right results. Storytelling is a skill that can be learned and ought to be learned in order to live in alignment, to drive engagement and to live a happy life. You don’t want to leave with regrets. Know what your story is.


Have a real clear vision for your story because if you don’t put your story’s message out there someone will put it out there for you. We’re all natural born storytellers we just forgot about it.

The Ebbinghaus Curve (Hermann Ebbinghaus)– people will forget, unless you put something into practice, if you get new information unless you use it within 24 hours, up to 75-80% of it will be gone.


So you have to practice it. Practice your stories. It will come second nature to you.

Pretty transparent – everybody can do it. She’s just helping. Her approach is giving you compassionate story coaching in the moment for yourself or your team. Focus on what you do really well and that will boost your confidence. She’s there to help you. She’s passionate about it. It’s your story not hers. You can to tell it. You get to craft it. She just helps you get there. She helps coach it to the surface.

So, what’s your story?

Connect with Theresa:

If you need help crafting your story, struggling to find the right words, big presentation or team needs to sell their ideas or working with a lot of change, stories can help manage that and help them move to the next phase.


Below are the marketing resources I mentioned throughout this episode of Connect the Dots:

  • Theresa's Bio and Research [Document]

  • Death by Story Video [YouTube]

  • Tell a 2-Minute Story Video [YouTube]

  • How to Craft a 2-Minute Story [Document]

  • Chunk Outline [Document]

  • Ebbinghaus Curve (aka Forgetting Curve by Hermann Egginghaus [Wikipedia]

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Vicki O'Neill_Headshot_original.jpg

Vicki O'Neill is a fractional CMO in Ohio with over 20 years of marketing leadership experience. She founded KenKay Marketing, a marketing solutions company, in 2011. Vicki hosts Connect the Dots a marketing and sales educational podcast for entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes. She recently launched a new podcast, The Power of 3X, with her Gen Z daughters to give people a resource to learn about our youngest generation. You will find Vicki on most social media platforms (icons in the footer) but you'll find her most active on LinkedIn. Receive weekly insights, tips, how-to's in your inbox by subscribing here.

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