Pop Quiz: What is the most memorable kind of communication?
a) A recitation of facts
b) A story
c) An opinion
If you said “b,” then you’re right! Whether it’s through hieroglyphics, parables, fairy tales, or fables, a good story is the deepest way to connect with your audience. So it is in your best interest to become a better storyteller.
Walk into any classroom and you’ll find teachers educating their students with stories. Walk into a major corporation and you’ll find high profile CEOs expressing thoughts, opinions, and facts to their employees with stories. Wherever you go, storytelling is a powerful means of communication.
Storytelling is a cherished tradition and an entertaining and effective way to convey information about almost any subject. As a speaker, this is an essential skill for developing effective presentations.
Why Should We Tell Stories?
It’s been discovered that each of us has a desire, and perhaps even a need, to tell and hear stories. I’m currently reading The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall and I find it fascinating how deeply ingrained stories are for humans. We’re practically born with a desire — if not need — for story.
By sharing stories with others, and indulging in their stories, we learn to understand one another at a much deeper level. By creating a common level of understanding, we come together as a community of individuals—appreciating both the differences and similarities we share.
You can convey your thoughts, feelings, and experiences through stories. By doing so, you’re verbally expressing the things you value, the customs you take part in, and the wisdom you’ve acquired in life.
Have you ever felt that you didn’t have anything interesting to share? Have you ever wished that you could grip audiences with the power of a good story?
If so, you’ll be happy to know that there are many stories within you, just waiting to be unleashed! And by becoming a better storyteller, you can become a powerful, in-demand speaker.
Steps to Becoming a Great Storyteller
Even if you’ve never told a story in your life, you can become a great storyteller! (Although the likelihood that you’ve never told a story is near impossible. We start telling stories as early as three years old! https://www.babycenter.com/0_developmental-milestone-talking-ages-3-to-4_65547.bc) With a little effort and practice, your storytelling skills will improve, and people will be drawn to what you have to say.
Top 4 techniques for telling great stories
1. Ensure that your presence is prominent.
You must have the attention of your audience, whether it’s a small group of friends or a large crowd. If you can captivate your audience, you’re halfway there! In order to do so, you’ll want to speak clearly and deliberately with an upright posture and confident demeanor.
Self-confidence plays a large role in making your presence prominent in a room. If you lack the confidence to step outside of your comfort zone and be confident, you’ll have a hard time gaining your audience’s attention.
2. Connect with and engage your audience.
Connecting with your audience on an emotional level is important. If you’re able to do this, you’ll draw in the interest of the crowd. This means understanding who they are, what they desire, why they’re there, and how to speak to them.
Talk and relate to your audience on an equal level. You shouldn’t let your ego lead to a condescending tone of voice, nor should you let your wavering self-confidence make you timid. We’re all human and we’re all equal, so eliminate any negative perceptions or mental barriers from your mind.
Match how you speak with whom you’re speaking to. Your tone, language, and attire should be different when you’re talking to high school students versus a group of women over 40. Try to precisely understand what the audience goes through day-in and day-out and tell that story.
To better understand your audience, it is a good idea to create an “Ideal Audience Avatar.” You can find plenty of information on the Internet on the topic. I also offer a simple video program that walks you through the process.
3. Interact with your audience.
Audience involvement is a simple technique that famous speakers use when sharing stories. You can ask questions, set up activities, or have someone share their experiences. This keeps your audience tuned in because they become part of the story.
Humor can help you engage and interact with an audience but don’t force it. Forcing humor into a story where it doesn’t belong is awkward for both the storyteller and the audience.
4. Teach something.
Your audience wants to learn something. They don’t want to simply learn about you; they want to learn something they can apply in their own lives. Structure your story so there’s both a situation and a solution or moral, that way there’s a deeper meaning associated with the story that the audience can identify with.
When you gain the full attention of your audience, you can connect with them on an emotional level and interact with them, that way you can more closely identify with their personal situations and leave them on the edge of their seats. All it takes is practice!
A Simple Story Framework
No matter how short or long, simple or complex, all good stories follow this simple framework:
- Establish the status quo: What are things like when the story starts.
- Add trouble: Something happens that shakes up the status quo.
- Resolution: The trouble is resolved, for good or ill.
Here’s an over-simplified example:
John was walking along the sidewalk on his way to the grocery store when he saw a large puddle blocking the sidewalk. He didn’t want to get his shoes dirty, so he walked a little into the street and around it.
The status quo is John walking to the grocery store. He probably had done this numerous times without incident.
The puddle is the trouble. Will he walk through it and get his shoes dirty? Will he leap over it and perhaps splash mud on his shoes or twist his ankle? Whatever shall he do?
John resolves the issue by simply walking around the puddle.
Now, obviously your stories will be a little more interesting than that if you are to grab your audience’s attention. But this example gives you a clearer idea of the framework and how you can apply it to your own stories.
Recommended Reading for the Power of Storytelling
- The Art of Storytelling: Easy Steps to Presenting an Unforgettable Story by John Walsh
- Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron
- Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You’ll Ever Need by Margot Leitman
Do you want to reach the right people with your presentations?
Then you need to create an Ideal Audience Avatar!
In this short, 9-minute workshop, you’ll learn:
- What an audience avatar is
- Why creating an audience avatar is important
- How to create an audience avatar