From the days of cave paintings, sitting around the campfire toasting marshmallows and now corporate storytelling as big business, stories are as important as ever.
I’m an early Gen X or maybe a Baby Boomer (depends! I seem to be on the cusp), but as a child, there was no internet, we didn’t have a TV until Dad got one so we could watch the 1972 Montreal Olympics.
What I enjoyed growing up, was the undivided attention of my parents and extended family at story time.
Storytime is anytime.
For me, story time was anytime. Around the dinner table, those were the days when the whole family sat at the table together, every meal. During our annual camping trip to Weston-Super-Mare, or Sunday afternoons when West Ham played a home match at my Great Grandmas house in East London, where there would be an endless tray of sandwiches, songs and stories around the piano.
My upbringing has a lot to do with the fact that I still think in stories and I love story performance and teaching others to relish all things story.
In the rocket-fuelled, non-stop busy lives we lead, it can be hard to grab the attention of your listeners as a trainer, presenter or speaker – that is unless you use stories.
If you want the audience to sit up and listen, if you want the audience to leave the venue or meeting room with your message (instead of on top of the pile of handouts they probably won’t take away either), then storytelling is for you.
As an speaker coac,h I often hear people say ” I don’t have stories that others want to hear, or I don’t want to bring my personal life to work….or I have to present dry stuff like the annual report.” These are all excuses!
There isn’t a presentation that can’t be enhanced with a story.
Maybe even a snippet of a story or anecdote, but something that engages the listener.
Stories are processed in a different part of the brain than the message we receive by purely listening to information or reading from slides.
When we are given information, the language centre in the brain is activated and the sounds are processed into words that have meaning attached. When the brain hears stories, multi-sensory areas of the brain are activated. The listener is able to experience the story for themselves, and as a result, they will remember it.
Something amazing takes place between a storyteller and a story listener. If the story resonates with the listener, both brains become synchronized, so the listener actually experiences the same emotions as the story-teller. It’s powerful stuff.
I’ve never had goosebumps from a PowerPoint presentation.
That is why it is important to choose the right story for the right audience at the right time.
Stories don’t need to be complex. I believe simple stories told well, are far better than convoluted complex stories that are hard to follow.
Pick a simple story told well
KISS storytelling – Keep It Simple When Storytelling
#1 A simple story told well
A simple story will have a greater impact than a convoluted story that is not told as well. You might think your story has to have a grand ending or lots of suspense and frequent plot twists, but it’s not necessary. The best stories are ordinary things that happen to ordinary people with something that others can relate to.
#2 Use simple short sentences
When you are sharing a story, you are not trying to impress people with a wide vocabulary. When you tell a story, you want your listeners to experience the story, to connect with you, and to see themselves in your story. Use descriptive language to provide visual images in the minds of your listeners.
#3 Spice up your story with a metaphor
A metaphor is the comparison of two things that are unrelated. Compelling storytellers use metaphors frequently to paint pictures with their words. Look for examples of metaphors you can incorporate into your stories. Even better create your own unique metaphors to match your experiences.
#4 Speak how you would normally speak
A shared story told live is meant to be spoken. The audience will be able to see your body language and vivid word pictures, hear the characters and richness in your vocal tones and feel the emotion in the words and story.
There is no need to tell your story as a piece of grammatically correct perfectly structured piece, save that for writing. When using any quotes in your speech remember to name the source and say the quote word for word, but otherwise, simple language works best. It also allows the listener to fill in the gaps with their own imagination which takes you into their world.
#5 Deliver with impact
The way you deliver your story is as important as the words you use. Bring your story to life with dialogue and characters. Avoid the “he said, she said”, narrative style as it gets boring, instead play around with setting up your characters on the stage.
The aim is to allow your audience will experience your characters as you bring them to life with dialogue and personality.
#6 It’s all about them
Your story is not about you (and this is the same for any speech). People don’t want to hear how successful you are they want to know how you got from point A to point B and what lessons you learned along the way. Make your speeches and stories audience-centric.
#7 Be sincere
Practice your story so that you will feel confident and your story will flow well, but above all, be yourself. A good story told well comes from the heart and is delivered in an authentic way and but practice will help you refine your story so that only the relevance bits are kept, keep it short! Winging it is not a strategy for successful storytelling. Avoid notes, slides or any other prop that doesn’t add value to your story.
Storytelling is one of the things that ripens with age. As we experience more of life’s ups and downs we have rich stories and wisdom to share.
As a storytelling expert, known as The Story Midwife, I help leaders to create compelling presentations through business storytelling.
Before becoming a Professional Speaker, I worked for over twenty years as a midwife.
I now live and breathe stories as a speaker, trainer, performer and coach.
As a World Class Speaking & Storytelling Coach, I’ll help you mine, refine and deliver a captivating story for your business or brand. Whether it is the boardroom, podium or stage; I can show you how to develop a persuasive presentation with a compelling story that will be hard to forget by anyone who gets to experience it.
If you would like to find out about training for your team, I’d love to hear from you. Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org or call +61 (0)438 902042.