Tell Better Stories

These days it is very popular to use storytelling in a presentation.  Audiences remember stories more clearly than any other kind of narrative and they get the point faster.

Here are 3 rules for telling better stories:

-A story needs tension. The audience needs to be aware that something may or may not happen, or that some danger might befall the storyteller, or that things are going to go disastrously wrong if something doesn’t happen the way it’s supposed to.  Without that tension a story tends to be passive and not worth remembering or retelling.

-The opening of the story is an opportunity to grab the audience’s imagination.  “So, as I’m sitting in the emergency room with no pants on the doctor says “You know, as chain saw accidents go, I’ve seen worse.”  Work hard to find an opening that paints a picture of the tension in the story.

-A good story is made up of lots of short little scenes.  It’s important that those scenes be conveyed in a seamless narrative form instead of “then this happened, then that happened, then that was followed by this…”

And a few other tips…

-Develop characters in the story. Tell us their name and something about them so we understand when you say “then Bill picked up the accordion and walked to the front of the stage..” why that’s relevant.

-Write the story out.  Just because storytelling is a verbal exercise, writing the story will help you iron-out the details and language.  If possible, after you write the story, put it away for a day or two, then edit again. Writing the story is just an exercise technique. Don’t read the written story to an audience. Deliver it without notes.

-Once you have a script and flow that you like, record it so you can listen to it a few times.  You’ll probably want to edit further. It will get better each time.

-Stories that show your vulnerability are particularly powerful.  Don’t hesitate to use them if the situation allows.

-True stories are always better than made-up stories.  That said, you are allowed to use some creative license to move scenes around so that the story flows better or the points are more demonstrable.  You’re allowed to embellish.

-Target the story to your audience.  You probably don’t want to discuss meeting a local sports hero if you are speaking to an audience from the other side of the country.

If you’d like to tell better stories, here are two other tips.  Take my storytelling workshop. Have your company host me.  The best book on storytelling is  “Long Story Short” by Margot Leitman.

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