Telling your Story: Act 1 - The Destination

(A note: This is part one on my series of creating a StoryDeck.)

Hans received a clear brief.

Give us a score that runs for 20 seconds. From here, the score ends, the film starts with dialogue introducing the characters.

So he got to work, lost himself in the creative process, and returned with his score.

Now, standing in front of the producers, he plays it to them, and as it’s playing, he realised:

Ah God, I forgot! This was supposed to be 20 seconds.” This score is minutes, not seconds.

The music ends, and the producers shuffle off to talk in a huddle.

Hans knows what’s going on. They’re figuring out who they’ll get to replace him.

He goes over to break up the huddle.

Look guys, I’m really sorry, I can do this thing 20-seconds.

No, no, no. That’s not what we’re talking about at all. We’re gonna go away and reanimate that whole opening, take all of that dialogue out.

And so this demo replaced the dialogue and became The Circle of Life opening sequence in The Lion King.

Once upon a time

That’s where any simple story starts, and we’re keeping this thing simple.

Hans Zimmer’s score, the African sounds, and the visuals profoundly tell us where this story begins and ends.

There’s a wonderful symmetry to it.

Lion King begins with Simba held aloft and ends with his son held aloft.

And then, minutes after the opening, Mufasa tells us:

“Look Simba. Everything the light touches is our Kingdom. A King’s time as ruler rises and falls like the Sun. One day Simba, the Sun will set on my time here and will rise with you as the new king.”


Even if you don’t consciously catch it, the audience subconsciously understands the journey we (and our hero) want to embark on.

When Mufasa dies, Simba will rise as the king.

Our desired outcome.

In storytelling, that’s more important than ever.

Nowadays, we have an abundance of choice when it comes to entertainment.

As a result, our tolerance for boredom is zero.

Ever started a TV show, then 2 minutes in, decided it wasn’t for you?

That’s what happens when a user lands on your website and disappears within ten seconds without scrolling to learn more.

You typically get headlines that nobody is ever gonna get excited about

Or when your prospect starts daydreaming three slides into your presentation.

They're leaving if it's not clear what's in this thing for them.

You make it clear by telling them (immediately) where this story ends.

Act 1 - Destination

We start with 5 slides in Act 1 - The Destination

The visual above shows my story structure for building a 20-slide deck. It then informs how I create persuasive copy across other platforms (website, ads, social, etc.).

It's a 5 act structure, beginning with Act 1 - The Destination.

As with The Lion King, at the start of the story, your goal is to tell the prospect how this story ends.

Here's a great example:

In ​her TED talk​, Zoë Karl-Waithaka is selling the following idea:

How marketing could improve the lives of African farmers.

Here’s how she introduces her story:

  • Americans love avocados. But what other food would you pay $15 for someone to bring to your table and mash-up in front of you?
  • Why would people pay absurd prices for something seemingly so simple? Marketing.
  • There was probably a time when you couldn’t pay people to eat avocados. But that changed in the 1990s after a Superbowl ad campaign where NFL players shared their favourite guacamole recipes. After this, and over time, avocados went from obscurity to one of the most consumed fruits in the US.
  • Today, I want to talk to you about how marketing can be a catalyst to improve the lives of farmers in Africa.

And here’s the structure of that opening:

1/ Once upon a time, a hero like you was enjoying your desired outcome; 2/Why was this happening?; 3/ It wasn't always like this. They were once suffering, like you are, until they implemented this big idea; 4/I want to share how 'hero' can achieve 'desirable outcome' through this  big idea'.

She gives an example of someone who achieved this desirable outcome your hero is dreaming of.

Then she encourages us to ask ourselves, ‘What’s going on here?’

And she focuses our attention on her big idea that led to this desired outcome (without giving too much away).

Finally, she wraps up the opening by explicitly telling us what we’re here for. She gives us her story statement.

It's intriguing. If you're an NGO tasked with helping improve African farmers' lives, you want to hear the rest of the story.

And that’s how you’ll start your story.

Give us a brief example of:

  1. Someone like you (avocado farmers)
  2. Who was suffering (couldn't sell them)
  3. Until, one day, they executed your big idea (marketing)
  4. Now they live happily ever after (selling loads of them at premium prices)

I’ll leave you to get started on your story.

We’ll figure out the next Act in the deck. - The Nightmare.

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