This is nothing new, more like a time-tested mode of storytellers around the world. Pro tip: Entertainment storytellers, from the Kardashians to Game of Thrones, retell stories all the time. Not only will no one notice much, you'll find your story resonates well with audiences precisely because it's familiar and well-structured. Here's how to try out borrowing stories:
- Retell an ancient tale, turned to your modern purpose: Google's director of engineering Ray Kurzweil has been using an ancient tale for several years. It's a fairy tale about the a Chinese emperor, the inventor of chess, and a cautionary tale about exponential growth involving a chess board and a puzzle that involves ever-growing numbers of grains of rice. This particular story also has versions in Persia and India--like the Cinderella story, it's durable enough to work all around the world. Kurzweil uses it to describe the impact of the Internet's growth effectively. Before you mock the idea of the fairy tale, know that it's one of the most durable forms of storytelling for lots of good reason, from structure to proven performance. Bonus: If your tale is about something high tech, the familiar fairy tale format offers a rich contrast to your topic, deepening your impact.
- Tell us how to make sense of someone else's story: There's no question that you'll be more effective telling personal stories that come right from your own experience. But sometimes, it falls to you to tell in a compelling way the story of someone else. Put yourself in the role of interpreter for this type of personal story and help us understand its significance. You'll see that happen in the video below in which WellSpan nurse Ann Kunkel talks about a patient and helps us see how her story reflects the wider world of health care. Kunkel is one of 16 speakers I coached to give five-minute talks in the style of TED for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Aligning Forces for Quality program.
- Tell us the story of your team's work: Megan Moynahan's executive director of the Institute for Functional Restoration, and when she was invited to TEDxBrussels to speak about her institute's work in engineering the human nervous system, she needed to make the talk personal--even though the work was not her own. I worked with Moynahan to prep this talk, and think she accomplished it especially effectively by weaving some of her own story into the larger story of the institute's work, a tactic that allowed her to share her own enthusiasm for it. As you'll see, she was a fan long before she knew this would be part of her career!
Storytelling's the big buzz word in communications and marketing. But we've forgotten how this ancient art works. This "Tell It Better" series hopes to revive and hone your storytelling skills for any format, from public speaking in the style of TED to social media. Want a storytelling workshop? Email me at eloquentwoman AT gmail.com
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Isabelle)
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