Start right before you get eaten by the bear: Why you should cut out backstory

Wes Kao_eaten by the bear backstory.jpeg

I’ve been in 30 minute meetings where 25 minutes was spent on backstory. Long, winding explanation--all in the name of "giving context." I've been guilty of it myself.

This is a losing situation for both sides: If you’re giving so much backstory, it’s less time for you to get advice or feedback. If you’re listening to the backstory, you probably already zoned out.

Cut back on as much backstory as possible. You’d be surprised how little you need to dive into a conversation.

To decide what parts to cut, figure out what question you want help with. Then ask yourself, "What’s the minimum amount of backstory person X needs in order to give me valuable advice?”

You may think they need to know every detail of what you’ve done up until this point, but they don’t. Once you start the dialogue, you can always add relevant information.

When you’re telling a story, it's even more important to remove backstory.

For example, I can tell you a story about how I went camping:

Three months ago, I started looking at nearby national parks...

Researching car rental options...

Packing Patagonia outerwear...

Setting up our tent...

Finally, 30 minutes in, I say,

“And on day five, Steve left beef jerky open in his tent. We heard rustling outside around 1am. When we poked our heads out, we saw a bear almost maul Steve in his sleep.”


Start your story right before you get eaten by the bear. This applies is for Q&A, pitches, team meetings, and sales conversations. People want to hear the juicy part.

Cut back on backstory. And when you think there’s nothing left to cut, cut some more. It will feel painful, but you’ll be surprised how much your story improves.

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