Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tell It Better: Breaking down storytelling skills for communicators

Lots of communications pros style themselves as storytellers...but are all at sea when it comes to story choice, components, structure, and other basics. So I'm breaking down those storytelling skills for you, using our Tell It Better storytelling series to give you the basics, special story tests, and good examples, with 14 important factors you should know:

Storytelling structure:
  1. Avoiding chronological order when telling a story: Many storytellers (hello, scientists and ye who labor in academe) have been taught that you have to start at the beginning and plow straight through a story. But sometimes, changing the chronology takes a story from plain and uninteresting to special and mesmerizing. I have a Nobel laureate's example for you at the link.
  2. Why you should 'plant the seed' for a storytelling payoff: When you want to really underscore a point in your story, it pays to think about the payoff--and how you can set that up earlier in the tale.
  3. Storytelling with themes and symmetry: Themes are an important part of any layered story, and if you can reflect them at the beginning and end, your audience will be more satisfied with the outcome. That symmetry pays off in greater understanding.
  4. Who's the hero when you tell the story of your customer's journey? If you thought that was you, your product or service, or your cause, you're wrong--in a way that will make all the difference when you're using storytelling to pitch.
On choosing which story to tell:
  1. Borrowing a story: If you want to add personal touches to your story--which are like catnip for the audience--but don't want to share your own story, borrowing one is a time-honored tradition, although there are some rules that go with it.
  2. Should you or your speechwriter get that story for your speech? If you're lucky enough to have a speechwriter, you shouldn't necessarily delegate to her the responsibility for finding a story for your speech. A frequent speaker explains why. Speechwriters, listen up.
Components that enhance or hurt your story:
  1. 4 ways slides can interfere with your storytelling: It's not that you can't use slides with storytelling, but that you must use them wisely. Here's my shortlist of pitfalls.
  2. Using metaphor to tell a visual story can reinforce your message, particularly when you carry it all the way through, verbally and visually. I have a great example at the link.
  3. Is your metaphor working...or working against you? Use metaphor, the power tool of public speaking...as long as you test it first. A great cautionary tale here.
  4. Storytelling with surprise and suspense: In our era of informational slide presentations, we've taken all the surprise and suspense out of our presenting. Good storytelling can bring that back. Here's how.
Great storytelling examples:
  1. The Whistlestop podcast shares campaign stories that review American politics through the lens of history, and in the process, shares some great storytelling examples for you to follow.
  2. A street doctor's lessons in storytelling take issues of health care and homelessness and make them real. One of the most compelling storytellers I've worked with shares lessons and examples.
  3. Getting patient data in healthcare from storytelling shares a bonus that emerged from a group of community health activists I coached for a conference: Storytelling can be another way for policymakers to collect data.
Want a workshop on storytelling for your executives, or your communications team? Email me at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Phillippe Gressien)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

No comments: