We all love to hear a rousing speech from our favorite politician. We are transfixed by every word and moved by innuendo. We hang tight as they relate the challenges, the pitfalls, the struggles and the plateaus. We celebrate with them as they regale the victories, large and small, and we’re on the bandwagon as they move to the climax of their speech.
And then… We exalt when they speak that one sentence, the catchphrase, the moniker that ties it all together. We love this sentence because it makes the whole story worthwhile, and helps us know that we’ve chosen the right side for us. We love their words and their platform, and mostly we love their story because they make us feel that we’re in it with them, that we’re part of the team – that we and they are one.
And who doesn’t love a well-delivered joke. Comedians are masters at crafting the stories that make us laugh at ourselves and the occasional absurdity of life. They expand the truth so far that it is unrecognizable as reality, and yet absolutely believable as a feeling that we’ve all been through. They know how to make small details big. They know how to get giant meaning from a single three letter word.
They know how to pause for effect, accentuate for drama, and build the blocks of an anecdote so that when they finally reach the punch line, even if we already know what they’re going to say, we’re spellbound and ready for the ensuing laughter. And if by chance they surprise us, we double over and roar with glee, tears streaming down our cheeks as we shriek with hilarity.
So what’s the common thread?
They’re both great storytellers.
They know how to weave a tale.
They know how to use the techniques of storytelling that all the greats know and use them regularly. They know how to truly engage an audience.
Whether you’re in the boardroom, in the bedroom, at a networking meeting or on a playground, being a great storyteller will enhance your credibility, believability and connection.
Here are six keys to telling a great story (in writing or speaking):
1. Know your WHY – your purpose – for sharing. What do you hope to gain when you tell it? Are you evoking a feeling from others? Are you seeking to inspire or motivate? Are you moving others to action? The first step in storytelling – and every other part of life – is to know your purpose and create a vision.
2. A great story has a conflict and resolution. It also has substance. Start from the beginning, end at the end, and share the details in between. People like chronology. They like to know where they’re going or if they don’t know they like to know that you will lead them confidently on the path. Don’t confuse them by jumping back and forth – and if you’re inclined to do this you must be crystal clear. A confused listener or reader won’t move forward with you.
3. Paint a picture. A.K.A. details, details and more details. This goes way beyond the who, what, when, where, why and how (although each of these is valuable and necessary to a great story). We’re talking about creating the feeling and pulling others along with you right into the thick of it. The more vivid the details of your inner journey, the more likely the reader or listener will go willingly with you.
4. Conversations count. Share dialogue. Recount the specific words spoken in an interaction and say or write them in the dialect and lingo that was present in the encounter. Slang is a great communicator that sets the tone and background for the story – use it freely.
5. Put your heart into it. Be vulnerable and sincere. If the story is about you, or if it can be, tell it with gut-wrenching truth. The more vulnerable you are, the more likely you will instill trust. Show them your guts and you’ve got a friend for life.
6. Tell the right story to the right audience. If your audience is 7-year olds, they know nothing of the rigors of a 9-5 work day except that their mom or dad isn’t home with them. They can’t relate to the water fountain chit chat or the insensitive boss or a meager paycheck. A great story told to the wrong audience is wasted.
7. Start and end with a bang. The first words engage and hook them, and the last words are what they’ll carry with them. Great storytellers are memorable.
As you tell your next story, use some of these tips and you’re sure to make an impact!
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About the Author: Sue Urda is an Author, Speaker, Inspirer and Co-Founder of Powerful You! Women’s Network and Powerful You! Publishing. She was named twice on Inc. Magazines list of the 500 Fastest-Growing Private Companies and is the author of three books, Powerful Intentions Everyday Gratitude, Women Living Consciously and Empowering Transformations for Women. Sue’s vision is to contribute to a global consciousness of women helping women succeed in business and in life and to open them to truth of who they are. www.sueurda.com www.powerfulyou.com