As children we loved the stories at bedtime. Whether a story was read to you from a story book, or your parents were great imagination experts and made up stories, I have never met a child that didn’t love their story time. So what changes when we become adults? Not much. We love the story line in a movie or a book, news junkies love the story lines about news and in business storyboards are created to sell a product, promote a new campaign and design a new plan for a project. Some people have such a capacity for stories that it amazes me. These story tellers leave you wanting more – tell me more! That is your goal in your personal and professional life. You want people to look forward to the next sentence versus wishing you would stop talking. No one likes a boring story, no one likes a person who only tells the negative stories – people want to hear the positive story that will motivate them.
Storytelling never grows old – regardless of your age. I am working with many sales people and leaders to get better at developing compelling stories that will help them achieve their goals. Most of the storytelling process follows the success of our presentation process we teach as well. If you are required to give any kind of a presentation – big or small, storytelling must be a part of it. So here are some tips:
Grab their attention. The best storytellers will draw you in immediately and get you wanting more. This applies to presentations. State a startling fact, capture their attention by setting the tone for the story. Don’t start with “oh let me tell you this story.” Jump right into the action. In a presentation this is where you are telling the audience what you are going to ‘tell’ them.
Words change your world. Everyone knows that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. You don’t need to script or memorize your story, but great leaders know that they must be authentic and choose the best words to use. No starting over or delivering with hesitation, jump in and make an impact. Your opening and closing should rock!
Give just enough detail but not too much. If you give too many details and go on and on, people get lost, bored and become uninterested. Your story must be compelling and grasp their attention so they can visualize your story. Role play your stories with some friends or colleagues so that you can practice becoming a better storyteller.
When telling a story use good eye contact. We have a rule that when speaking to a group, focus on one person at a time, for three to four seconds before moving to the next person. As you get people involved in your story try to make eye contact with as many people as possible. Don’t wash over the crowd as if you don’t care – authenticity is rule #1 in storytelling. If you are using real examples, make sure they are positive if you are speaking about someone in the room. Otherwise, change up the example.
Remember repeatable phases – “I have a Dream.” Use fewer words to get the message across and repeat them several times during the story. Recently, to get my message across to a group, I read a Dr. Seuss book – it hit home!
Make a startling statement and then pause. A bit of silence is as important as the story. Silence is a powerful and underutilized storytelling tool. Silence will draw people in and get them wanting more.
Why are you telling this story? Every story should have a message and an objective. What are you trying to convey. There should be a moral to your story. What do you want them to buy, change or do as a result of listening to you?
Great storytellers can be very entertaining. They can create a compelling message, teach and influence others. Stories create memories and without a doubt they will make people remember you. Recently I met an executive of a large company that heard me speak over 20 years ago and he remembered a story I told. This story stuck with him, changed some facets in his life and made enough of an impression that he remembered me.