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Message Telling:

Leading Your Listeners to Meaning, Through Storytelling

An 9-lesson telephone-plus-web course led by Doug Lipman. Limited to 9 participants!

How to Create Buy-In and Clarity of Meaning
at the Same Time

When you first learn about the powers of storytelling, it seems like a magic bullet. Then you learn there are trade-offs involved, and it seems like a black-or-white choice: you can achieve either participatory engagement with stories, or clear meaning with ordinary business talk.

But reality is more complex than black-or-white. Not only are there shades of gray, there are four main “colors” for shading the meaning you convey through stories. I have mapped this two-dimensional reality using the Story Meaning Matrix™.

This Story Meaning Matrix is an array of techniques you can use for increasing the likelihood that your listeners will come away from a story with the meaning you had in mind. Best of all, it’s possible to use multiple strategies within the same presentation!

This means that you don’t have a simple yes-or-no choice available to you, but an array of choices to use and combine—in the process of artfully guiding your listeners to the meaning you intend, all while maintaining the power of engagement so characteristic of pure storytelling.

Is this course for you? Take this quick self-quiz:

1. Are you responsible for getting individuals or a team to work together to solve problems?

2. Are you dissatisfied with the old ways of talking?

Are you aware that the conventional ways of communicating, as useful as they are, are incomplete? Are you looking to go beyond the conventional tools of analytic language, bullet points, logical argument and brute marshaling of facts?

3. Do you need more buy-in from your listeners?

Are you turning to storytelling as a way to engage the imagination and passions of others? Do you want the people you deal with to respond as inspired agents of change rather than with grudging compliance or even open resistance?

4. Do you need precisely communicated meaning?

Is it not enough for you that your stories get people to feel something (although you certainly want to engage them emotionally)? Do you also need to communicate your specific ideas? Do you want to convey hard meaning, not just an attitude?

Is this meaning mission-critical? For you, is it unsatisfactory to find people arriving at conclusions based on your stories that are far from what you have in mind or even antithetical to it? Do you want buy-in and individual interpretation, but not at the expense of clearly communicated meaning?

5. Are you intrigued by the reputed benefits of storytelling and want to know more?

Maybe you have been attracted by some of the wonderful, articulate and inspiring books on using storytelling for leadership, for persuasion, for branding, and more. Maybe you’re an accomplished storyteller; maybe you’ve just begun to get your feet wet.

Maybe you resonate with Harvard University's Howard Gardner, who studied great leaders of the 20th century and concluded that “Leaders achieve their effectiveness chiefly through the stories they relate.”

If the above statements describe you, you have a problem to solve!

So what’s the problem?

The problem with telling stories to convey meaning is really the flip side of the strength of storytelling: when people listen to stories, they create their own meanings. That’s why stories are so powerful: they entice people to imagine in their own ways, and then to attach their own meanings to those images.

But this very power can come at a price: the meanings that people create for your stories are, by definition, personal. They can be scattered all over the map.

Is it necessary to trade precision of communication for listener involvement? Can’t there be a way to get both?

Dr. Charles Martin, dentist and trainer

Dr. Charles Martin, DDS,, dentist and executive coach,, Richmond,, VA

"I learned how to work with a story to give it a specific meaning, a specific message. It's a mixture of freedom and working within constraints.

"But the big revelation for me was this: it's a lot of fun! Working within the constraints is enjoyable, once I understand what you've taught me. Bravo!"

—Dr. Charles Martin, Richmond, VA.


The Solution: Meaning and Engagement

Great communicators have always known (often unconsciously) how to solve this problem. Sometimes, pieces of the solution have even been discussed in a way that others can learn to apply.

But no one has fully described the range of options that great communicators instinctually draw from. No one has fully mapped the Story Meaning Matrix™ and made it available to others.

Gael Cresp photo

Gael Cresp, MS advocate, professional storyteller and author, Kilcunda, Australia

"The Story Meaning Matrix is the most useful tool I have come across in my 20-plus years of professional storytelling.

"Doug has amazing insight and a wonderful manner for listening and teaching."

—Gael Cresp, Kilcunda, Australia.

Message Telling™: the Course (via Telephone and the Web)

logo for the Message Telling courseStorytelling is important because it respects your listeners’ intelligence. So it’s best used to suggest meaning rather than specify it.

In this course, though, you’ll learn how to make it more likely that those who hear one of your stories will come to create a meaning that is consistent both with their own values and point of view, on the one hand, and with the meaning you have in mind, on the other.

You’ll do this by learning all the techniques in the Story Meaning Matrix™. Some of these techniques are fairly intuitive. Some of them are surprising. Each technique is very rich, giving you an opportunity to apply your creativity to the process of conveying your meaning in a way that inspires.

In the Message Telling™ process, you will take a story that I provide and apply each individual technique in a way that works for your actual situation—for your purpose and your specific group of listeners. Then you will apply the techniques you've learned to a story of your own.

You will learn by doing—but you’ll also learn by listening to the eight other people in the class, as they apply these techniques. By seeing how all nine of you do it differently, you will gain an in-depth, practical understanding that you can’t get otherwise.

This is the most efficient, practical way to learn how to flexibly adapt your Message Telling to the exact needs of each unique situation you face.

Lesson Calls, Coaching Calls, and More

This course will consist of nine 90-minute recorded lessons, each including an explanation of a part of this process, visuals on the course website, and questions and answers.

After every lesson, you’ll have a practical assignment, giving you a chance to apply the techniques and strategies presented in the lesson—in a way that suits your needs and situation.

I will also offer a ninety-minute coaching call approximately one week after each lesson, to help you overcome any difficulties in applying the lessons and to give you a sounding board for those “How does this idea sound?” kind of questions.

You’ll also have a chance to try out your adaptations on the phone with other course members. And the recordings of other course members’ stories will be available to you to listen to on the course website and to comment on.

All of this is presented in an easy-to-digest format, and can be managed in as little as 2 hours per week.

Larry Forster photo

Larry Forster, independent consultant, Shell Oil 27-year veteran, New Orleans, LA

"I have learned so much that contributes to getting a message across! I've learned not just how to put a story together, but also how to set up what a story needs, to set a stage for it, to frame it.

When I think of all I've learned, the term 'integrated' comes to mind: I've learned many parts of this process, but most important of all is the "whole" they've created in my mind, a whole approach to helping a story do its work."

—Larry Forster, New Orleans, LA.


And now, Deluxe!

The new Deluxe Message Telling course adds two key learning enhancements:

1. See and Listen Lessons

Each conference call will be accessible by telephone, as before. But now you'll have the option of viewing the handouts (especially the 22-square Story Meaning Matrix diagram) as I discuss them.

In this way, you'll get a simultaneous audio and visual experience, to help absorb these techniques more quickly.

Further, all the calls will be recorded, and the video-plus-audio recordings will be available on the course website. These new lesson recordings will replace the previous audio-only recordings, although both will remain available for you.

2. Full transcriptions

Currently, there is a wealth of information on the course website, much of it in audio recordings of the 9 audio-only lessons, the special introductory call, and the 17 previous coaching/question-and-answer calls. Since all the calls were 90 minutes long, there are 40.5 hours of recordings available to you, each chock-full of information!

Up to now, though, there has been no easy way to search the calls to find exactly the information you need or to listen to someone being coached on a problem similar to the one you may be facing. That's why I've contracted to have all 40+ hours transcribed!

The transcriptions, starting with the past lessons and then the coaching/q-and-a calls, will be posted for each lesson at least by the time we reach each lesson. Altogether, you will have over 800 pages of written material available to you!

Individual Attention!

To assure that you’ll get all the individual help you need, I’m limiting this course to just nine (9) participants!


Guarantee shieldI am so confident that you’ll finish this course able to apply these techniques masterfully, that I’m guaranteeing the course unconditionally. If you don’t learn everything I claim, I will refund your complete tuition!

Why Should You Learn This From Me?

I have three sets of abilities that are rarely found in the same person:

1. I am an artist and I have decades of experience as a professional storyteller, creating works of narrative art and conveying them to people around the world.

2. I’m also an analytic thinker, a former mathematics major at Johns Hopkins University. I don’t feel satisfied just being able to do something. I want also to be able to analyze what I’ve done and explain it to others.

Doug Lipman black and white
  Doug Lipman (photo by Pam McGrath)

Jimmy Neil Smith photo

Jimmy Neil Smith, Executive Director, the International Storytelling Center

"Doug Lipman is just the best thinker we have about storytelling!"

—Jimmy Neil Smith, founder of the National Storytelling Center and the International Storytelling Center, Jonesborough, TN.

3. I have experience, not just as a practioner but also as a coach who has helped people at all levels tell their stories more effectively. I have years of experience not just in the artistic world but also in the business world. Here’s a partial list of my organizational clients:

  • The Jet Propulsion Lab at NASA;
  • The United Way;
  • Forrester Research;
  • BP (numerous engagements since 1999 in the U.S. and the U.K.);
  • The Center for Creative Leadership (Greensborough, NC and Brussels, Belgium);
  • The World Bank;
  • Witness to Innocence (speaker's bureau of death-row exonerees)
  • The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers;
  • Johns Hopkins University School of Public Safety;
  • NCS (formerly the government IT firm, Singapore);
  • The International Storytelling Center, Jonesborough, TN;
  • Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame.

"When my hand-picked crew of international coaches was about to begin a critical mission, I chose Doug Lipman to help train them further!"–Cheryl de Ciantis, former director, Center for Creative Leadership, Brussels

Cheryl de Ciantis photo

Cheryl de Ciantis, Owner at Kairios Group and former director, Center for Creative Leadership, Brussels, Belgium

I’ve used my abilities as a performer and as a coach to help them bring out their own way to succeed in conveying their message through story. I have coached executives, internationally known performers, and professionals of all kinds—in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

Richard Sattgast photo

Richard Sattgast, State Treasurer of South Dakota, State Auditor of South Dakota, 2002-2010.

"My speeches seem to go over a lot better and I am more comfortable giving them than I was. Thanks!"–Richard Sattgast, State Treasurer of South Dakota

"Many, many people have come up to me and told me that our recent offsite was the best they'd ever attended. And this is a very critical audience.

“You were terrific -- not just entertaining, but filled with useful stuff people needed to know

“We have definitely created the chemical change in their brains. Things will be different, our writing and our speeches will be better, and our ability to influence people will improve!"–Josh Bernoff, Forrester Research

Josh Bernoff photo

Josh Bernoff, Vice President and Principal Analyst, Forrester Research

During my experiences in the worlds of artistic storytelling and applied storytelling, I originally came across the techniques that form the Story Meaning Matrix. Then I used my abilities as a thinker to describe these techniques in clear terms. Finally, I used my experience as a trainer and coach to create a method for learning these infinitely flexible tools, a method that is both practical and fully powerful.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why Should I Take a Whole Course in This One Aspect of Storytelling?

I have offered pieces of the Storytelling Meaning Matrix as part of trainings and workshops in the past. But this is too powerful a tool to absorb in just an hour.

I became frustrated that there was never enough time to devote to this key area of leadership storytelling: how do you guide your listeners to a meaning through storytelling?

Without this piece of the puzzle, your storytelling lacks some of its power to create new behaviors. You need to be able to command attention as you tell. But achieving your goals through storytelling requires that you also know how to use that attention to achieve results.

Since I had no other forum for offering this, the most powerful information I know, I decided to offer it as an nine-lesson course. I chose nine lessons because, teaching at maximum efficiency, it will take that long to give you the skills and understanding you will need.

2. Is This Course for Everyone?


Beginning Storytelling Toolkit coverIf you need to get started telling stories and to begin to apply them to your circumstances, then you might be better suited with something like the Beginning Storytelling Toolkit.

If your focus is on stories that are powerful but you don't need people to derive specific meanings from them, then this course is overkill. The Storytelling Workshop in a Box coverIf what you need is to become an excellent performance storyteller, and you want to develop those techniques to the highest level, then you’d be better served by something like the Storytelling Workshop in a Box.

But if it’s imperative that you have the highest possible success rate at conveying your meaning in a way that both clarifies and invites participation, buy-in and inspiration, then this course is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. And it has not been available—anywhere, in any form—until now.

3. Is this going to be some big theoretical system that’s hard to apply?

No. I will first present the basics of how stories convey meaning and how story talk differs from ordinary business talk and supplements it. Once you understand those basics, then you’re in a position to meet the Story Meaning Matrix.

Every step of this will be practical. At the end, you will have hands-on knowledge—and experience—of how to confidently make the decisions that will guide your listeners with the perfect mix of a firm hand and an engaging story.

In short, you will have developed a mastery of the art of guiding people towards meaning through storytelling.

4. How much of my time will this take?

On the average, it will take about 2 hours of your time each week. Of course, you’ll have the option of spending longer, by listening to the work of other students or by re-working your own examples.

You’ll get the very best results if you try out your course exercises in your work. If you do so, the hours you spend on this course will really be hours on your job, not away from it.

In the end, this course will save you time by make your existing work more efficient and effective.

5. When will this course meet?

The first phone call will be held in April, 2011. Once I have accepted the students and surveyed you on your schedule needs, I’ll create a precise schedule of the coaching phone calls (spread over 5 months) that works for everyone.

No calls will be scheduled on weekends. They will happen on weekdays, either during the day or in the evening, depending on our mutual availability.

Once I’ve sent you the schedule, you’ll have a chance to get a quick refund of everything you’ve paid, in case the schedule doesn’t work for you.

6. What If I Need to Miss a Call?

Don’t worry! All calls will be recorded and posted on the Message Telling website. You’ll have a chance to listen and absorb at your own rate.

7. What Does All This Cost?

The Message Telling course includes nine 90-minute lessons and nine coaching/question-and-answer calls. In addition, you'll have access to the recordings of the coaching/question-and-answer calls from the two previous cohorts. You will get access, then, to a total of over 64 hours of recordings and live calls!

It also includes nine sets of assignments, complete with the option to view/listen to each other’s solutions via the course website. I will be an active participant in the course forums and will respond to your postings and assignments.

Since I charge $195 and up for an hour of coaching (or $1800 for a one-day intensive), each of the 18 live calls is worth well over $200, not to mention the value of the recordings, transcriptions, and interactive environment. So the $1097 tuition for this course is a bargain. And, since it is fully guaranteed, I have absorbed the risk for you. You can’t lose!

Apply Now to Hold One of the Nine Places

Since this course is limited to nine people and is fully guaranteed, I will screen admissions. If the course interests you, click to request a no-obligation application:

I will send you back a simple, four-question application to fill out. (Note: You make no commitment until the point when your application is accepted and you decide whether to register.)

Once you are accepted, you will have 5 days in which to complete your registration, in order to continue to hold your place.

No communication skill is more important than conveying your message to the hearts and minds of others. You will reap the benefits of this course for the rest of your working life!

Yours in storytelling,

Doug's signature

Get an application now:


(Problems with the above link? Use my contact form instead. Mention that you want a Message Telling course application.)



Doug Lipman

152 Wenonah Road, Longmeadow, MA 01106 U.S.A.
Phone: (781) 837-1940
Alternate Phone (rings the same line): (413) 754-6728
Fax (toll-free): (888) 300-6665

This page was last updated on June 6, 2014
Copyright©2009 Doug Lipman