One of the most searched-for communication skills on the Internet is “how to tell a story.” Stories are enjoyable, alive, effective and easy to retain. And you don't have to be a professional storyteller to utilize this powerful communication technique.
These are 10 simple steps to telling a good story:
- Select a story. Sounds simple, but you need to find a story that you love and that’s relevant to your situation. A testimonial can be a powerful way to support your topic. But you can also use great illustrations that originate with others or that are even fictitious. The idea is to find a tale to tell.
- A good story has surprise, emotion, mystery or relevance. A REALLY good story has all four.
- It can always be lengthened, shortened or sectioned to accommodate the needs of the moment.
- Always have a few good stories ready to turn to – and save them somewhere. Although we think we’ll never forget a great story, it does happen.
- Dissect the story. Breaking the story into a sequence of events will help you remember it. It’s also helpful to know which parts should be included for each storytelling occasion. Make an outline of the sequence of events for each section.
- Edit the story: Think about the story you’re telling. Are there parts of the story that aren’t relevant to the audience or occasion? Are there unnecessary details that keep you from getting to the point? If so, trim them. Often times, less really is more.
- Determine the moral of your story. Often when we share a story, it’s to illustrate or reinforce a point we’re making in a larger context. Certain stories are better to reinforce certain learning. Telling the story about the lost dog who was found six months later can support determination or perseverance. The story about the airplane that almost crashed could illustrate the importance of preparation or teamwork.
- Add a Fearless Start and a Fabulous Finish. This is a simple technique that enables you to start and finish strong. Get the audience’s attention right away and be sure to leave them with a final thought. That strong finish is what your audience will remember.
- Add emotion. Every good story is packed with emotion. Use your voice to inject life and feeling into the story. There are four areas of focus:
- Vocal pitch (high and lowness of your voice)
- Projection (loudness of your voice)
- Pace (speaking rate)
- Passion (tone, attitude, infection)
- Recite and refine the story. Begin to tell yourself the story aloud, using your own words. Saying the story out loud is much more beneficial than “rehearsing in your head.” As you recite, continue to refine the story. Is it too short? Too long? Does it make sense to someone who has never heard the story before?
- Practice the story in real time. Find someone willing to listen to a dry run. Seek feedback regarding how the story could be told more effectively.
- Look confident. Although you may not feel it on the inside, appear confident. Look at your audience. Speak clearly and with assurance. It's your story. Own it and be the storytelling master.
- Enjoy the experience. You’re using a technique that others enjoy. Learn to enjoy it yourself. After you tell the story a few times, you’ll find your rhythm. And the butterflies in your stomach will fly away.
These steps may not be rocket science, but they can be game changers. Before you know it, you’ll be able to use the power of storytelling to improve your presentations, lectures and every day conversations.