Once upon a time there was a research manager named Cindy, who worked at a global social media company. Cindy’s team was super-smart, but they weren’t having the kind of impact and influence she thought they deserved.

Every day Cindy’s team of researchers would try to share their brilliant research insights with people throughout the organization, but their messages weren’t having an impact, and they couldn’t understand why.

So one day, Cindy decided it was time to get some help.

She reached out to Creative Sandbox Solutions™ for a discovery call, and shared that her team:

  • struggled to empathetically understand different audiences
  • filled their communications with “research-speak” — jargon that was incomprehensible to colleagues and stakeholders
  • tended to use a negative and adversarial tone, which turned people off

Because of that, Creative Sandbox Solutions led Cindy’s team through , an active-learning virtual offsite designed to help team members connect with — and influence — audiences more effectively.

Because of that, cross-functional communication improved, engagement skyrocketed, and morale saw a big bump, too!

Because of that, instead of hearing crickets when they share their insights, Cindy’s team is now seeing people sit up and take notice.

Until finally, other managers have come to Cindy, asking what led to her team’s dramatic improvement.

And ever since then, Cindy’s team has used the tools they learned in Communicating for Influence to do their jobs better.

And the moral of the story is, just because your team is smart doesn’t mean they’re great communicators.

But the good news is, communicating for influence and impact is a skill you can learn.

The Story Spine

Now that you’ve read this far, here’s a secret: that entire story was built on a scaffolding known as the Story Spine, originated by of Synergy Theater.

The Story Spine is 8 sentence starts (with an optional moral at the end) that together go like this:

  1. Once upon a time…
  2. Every day…
  3. But, one day…
  4. Because of that…
  5. Because of that…
  6. Because of that…
  7. Until, finally…
  8. And, ever since then…
  9. (Optional: And the moral of the story is…)

Many well-known stories (Cinderella, The Hobbit, The Wizard of Oz) and films (Star Wars, Toy Story, The Incredibles) can be plotted against the Story Spine, and in fact, Pixar is known to use the Story Spine in their story development process.

The Story Spine is also great as an applied improv tool, to help with the concept of (ahem) storytelling, as well as listening, understanding the hero’s journey arc, and generating alternative endings based on pivots and consequences.

How might you tell your own story using the Story Spine?

Research, as well as our own lived experience, tells us that humans are wired for story.

The better we are at storytelling, the better able we will be to connect with audiences. Which is why I use tools like the Story Spine in my and my program.

I’m curious: Which segment of this post did you connect with more? The story? Or the second part, that wasn’t a story?


I love helping people engage audiences better. If you or your team could use help becoming winning presenters, communicating for influence, leading better virtual meetings, connecting with your creativity…

Interested to learn more? Message me to chat about how I can use my signature system to help your employees infuse connection, joy and delight into virtual meetings, trainings and events at your workplace.

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