How to Consistently Find and Tell Great Stories

The odd thing about storytelling is that people think they need to learn how to do it. At association meetings, when I present Be a Storyteller: Present Your Ideas with Impact and Influence, everyone is all excited because they think they are going to learn how do this mystical, magical thing.

Instead I just tell them to
1. journal the stories they already tell and
2. think about important points and feelings they want others to have
3. tell their stories (but leave out the boring parts).

What is story?

Story is simply the truth presented in a way that other people can relate to. Rather than being filled with facts and details – stuff that appeals to the logical side of the brain, story focuses on the softer, emotional side of the truth. Good stories (those in which the teller is not the hero!) help listeners feel more comfortable with the teller and create an emotional bond between the teller and the listener.

Where are stories found?

Everywhere! But, if you’re like I am, they’re hard to think of if you just say to yourself, “okay, what stories do I know?” Stories are the things that happen to you and the things you’re told.

TSA isn’t exactly known to be The Ritz-Carlton of customer service but the other day while I’m taking out my computer, my liquids, taking off my shoes, removing my sweater – you know the drill – the TSA guy noticed that my ticket was upgraded. “You’re a frequent flyer. You should get Global Entry because you can zoom through the pre-check line. You’d like it.” Not exactly ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen but fabulous customer service! Had he not taken the initiative to tell me, I never would have known that Global Entry also allows a fast check stateside.

So that story isn’t a BIG thing but it’s definitely a story I can use to talk about focusing on the customer and using what you know to provide content that helps others succeed. Yes, the story may take a bit of work and even maybe a bit of dramatic license to make it more compelling but I could tell it exactly as it is to make my point.

Tell the story over dinner.

Record the funny, interesting, cute, sad, clever things that happen in your life. Then practice them with your harshest critics, your family. If no one laughs, you’ll need to adjust your story. Most likely you added too many details that didn’t add to the value of the story. Ask them to tell you where you lost them and what parts were boring. Next tell your modified stories to friends. If they don’t laugh, ask questions, truly appear interested or tell a story to mirror yours, the story probably didn’t create much impact. Tell them that you’d like to be a better storyteller and ask for their help.

Connect the point.

Once you can tell your story in a compelling manner and before you use the story in a business setting, connect the point! Does it really align or did you just like the story?

Remember what Isabel Allende said: “You are the storyteller of your own life and you can create your own legend or not.”

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