In today’s article you’re going to learn everything you need to know about how to use storytelling.
Everyone loves and listens to a good story! In this an article we will explore the power of using story and storytelling in presentations and also in our businesses. When we use this powerful tool, employees, clients and potential clients will listen.
In the words of Annette Simmons, “We will rediscover the oldest tool of influence in human history – telling a good story. Storytelling is not limited to fairy tales or traditional folktales. Telling a good story is like giving a mini-documentary of what you have seen so others can see it, too.”
How to use storytelling:
Why should we make use of stories?
1. People listen to stories, internalize them, remember them and think about them.
Stories pull rather than push.
2. They cause listeners to remember and share their own stories.
3. They help with rapport – when we know someone’s story, we can’t help but like them and empathize with them.
4. Stories, when they are captivating, help our listeners remember the story, and, in turn, the point and/or points we were making when telling the story.
5. Stories offer a great way to explain policies and rules, give examples of outstanding accomplishments and share information.
6. Storytelling is the most valuable skill you can develop to help you influence others – and, isn’t that what we hope to do when we present?
When should we use stories?
1. I suggest working on and crafting a strong “Signature Story” to use when opening and/or closing your presentation. This is yours and unique to you (like your own personal signature). It may be a personal story about something you have experienced, or it may be a tale that makes an important point relating to your topic.
Note: If it is a story from your life and experiences, my warning is that your listeners would much rather hear a story about you as the “bug” rather than the windshield. No one wants to hear “how wonderful” you are.
2. An effective way to get the audience’s attention is, when introduced, quietly stand before them, and, once everyone is quiet and attentive, start with your compelling story.
3. Of course, as a storyteller, I prefer to have several stories prepared for all my presentations. Then, if and when I notice that my listeners are starting to lose energy or focus, I will say, “Let me tell you a story.” Everyone perks up immediately. This comes in especially handy when you are presenting after a long morning of presentations and/or a filling luncheon.
4. I also prefer to use a strong – and often emotional – story for my close. Remember, that you want your listeners to leave with strong feelings for you and your topic. If you can move them at this stage, they will.
5. I know that up to this point I have been writing mainly about using stories when speaking to a group. Let me give you some other ways of when to use the power of storytelling:
All of the same reasons to use story when presenting apply to your marketing efforts. Once you learn, prepare, and practice storytelling, you will find that all of your marketing materials will benefit from the sharing of stories. People are just as compelled to read a good story as to listen to one.
Having been a newspaper editor for nine years, I have received and been turned off by the supposedly “tried and true” press releases sent into the paper. However, if I was sent a great story about a person or company, I was delighted to use it. To be written about in an article brings so much more interest and credibility than an expensive, whole page advertisement.
When we are meeting people at a Networking event, we are usually asked, “What do you do?” If we answer with a label (“I’m a consultant, lawyer, website designer, etc.) the reaction is blah. But, if we put our answer into a story form, “I help small business owners who are struggling to establish a professional presence on the Internet,” our questioner will be interested in hearing the story of how you do that.
Even if you don’t feel that you are a writer, you can write an article for a business publication that revolves around a true story. Having your name and byline on a printed article – or today, on the Internet – will not only give you great exposure, but will also help to establish yourself as an expert in that area.
Using stories when selling your product and/or service is an incredibly powerful skill and technique. Your potential clients /customers want to hear all about the problems you solve and the solutions they will experience. What better way than to tell them the story of how your or your company solved another’s problem(s).
These are actually, or should be, stories. You can use them in every situation we have already discussed. Told or written as powerful stories, they will easily clinch the sale and/or captivate and influence your readers and audiences.
Every great copywriter I have studied, listened to, and learned from uses the power of story in their copy. They use stories in advertisements, in direct mail marketing, in newsletters, on websites, in Internet sales letters, for direct response copy, in the books and e-books they write – the opportunities are limitless!
What kinds of stories can or should I tell?
1. In her terrific book, The Story Factor, inspiration, influence, and persuasion through the art of storytelling, Annette Simmons (1) suggests using the following six types of stories that will serve you well:
“Who I Am” Stories – If your story is good enough, people – of their own free will – come to the conclusion they can trust you and the message you bring.
“Why I Am Here” Stories – Before you tell someone what’s in it for them, tell them what’s in it for you. If people feel you are hiding this, their trust plummets.
“The Vision” Story – Once listeners are comfortable with who you are and why you are here, they have to “see” and “feel” what the benefits are for them. Vision takes courage. We need stories of vision to give our work and lives meaning.
“Teaching” Stories – Help make sense of new skills in meaningful ways. Never teach a skill that doesn’t have a reason “why.” Tell a story so that the skills you teach will also teach people to think about why and how they might use the new skill.
“Values-in-Action” Stories – Without a doubt, the best way to teach a value is “by example.” The second best way is to tell a story that provides an example. Values are meaningless without stories to bring them to life and engage us on a personal level.
“I Know What You Are Thinking” Stories – When you tell a story that makes people wonder if you are reading their minds, they love it.
2. Personal stories:
Personal stories can be true-life stories about you or someone in your family. Humor and/or drama help a great deal, so it is OK to embellish – but, not out and out prevaricate. I am part of a storytelling (2) list where we recently had a lively discussion about tellers making up first person stories or telling someone else’s story as if it were theirs.
The sad part is that if the listeners learn that it wasn’t true at all for you, they will lose trust in you. So, my advice is if you are going to be autobiographical, make sure that it actually happened to you.
3. Traditional tales:
There are so many terrific tales – now in the public domain – that you can use. Adapt them to fit your presentations or use them as they are. One of my favorite examples is a story I created and tell based on the Pied Piper of Hamlin and is about a town overrun with cockroaches. It is always well received.
I also tell a Sufi tale about a young woman who faces three big crises – learning a new profession with each. It is perfect for me with my “Portfolio Career” (many different careers at the same time). Use your imagination! I think you will find many great stories to read and use when you start investigating.
4. Stories to avoid:
If you have attended others’ presentations, seminars and or conventions, then you have heard many of the old and tired stories that are told over and over again. Don’t fall into this trap, because it will surely rob you of your credibility.
We have all heard the stories of Thomas Edison and Coronal Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken ad nauseum. And, then there is the lighthouse story and the difference between heaven and hell (people eating at a huge banquet with long, long forks).
How do I get ideas for my personal stories?
To provoke recollections of stories and incidents, ask questions such as:
What was your earliest happy experience, earliest sad or shocking experience, first day in school; or the first day you remember in school? Who has influenced you: teacher, parent, relative, associate, friend, etc.?
What vivid memories do you have of your first boss, your “black sheep” relative, a companion through a difficult ordeal? What places contain vivid memories: where you lived as a child, as an adult, where you learned a lesson you have never forgotten, where important events or changes in you life occurred?
What happened at various life stages: first love, young adulthood, kids and parents? How has your community grown, changed, or stayed the same?
How do I create and tell an effective story?
1. What is the point? What is the theme? What do I care about?
2. Where and when does the story take place? Get into it and get your audience into it. Use all the senses.
3. Who is the main character (interesting person or animal)?
4. What does the main character want badly? What is his/her goal?
5. What is blocking the main character (should hold a degree of danger or risk)?
6. What is the crisis?
Donald Davis, master professional storyteller, describes crisis as “any event or happening that takes a part of the world we have grown comfortable with and turns it upside down.”
7. Note: the way it looks – description and series of images, a scene – and the way it makes you feel is not a story.
Explore: What is it about? What does it mean? What does it add up to? Where is the wisdom? Where are the contradictions? We find meaning not in what happened, but in the stories we tell ourselves about what happened. The hardest work is thinking clearly.
8. What decision is made by the main character?
9. What is the outcome or result?
10. Does the story support the point?
11. How long does it take to tell the story?
Attributes of effective storytelling:
Brevity, Authenticity, Judicious Pauses, Imagery, Tension, Characterization and Lots of Practice, Practice, Practice (on tape, for friends, family and anyone else who will listen!).
Other techniques of good fiction and good storytelling to use:
- Identification – audience needs to identify with you, the trusted, observing narrator.
- Characters – clearly-drawn so that the audience can care about them.
- Conflict – gotta have trouble or we just won’t get involved.
- Whimsy/Humor – you need to give us a break from the R & Ms (relevant and meaningful)
- Structure – plot, repeated metaphors/implied meaning through parallel events.
- Suspense – let us wonder, let us squirm.
- Contradictions – where it’s yes and no. embrace paradoxes.
- Language – the way in. Keep it direct.
1. Is my story visual?
2. Are my feelings in the story?
3. Is the story told from a consistently believable point of view – a child’s perhaps? Am I using the first person and the present tense?
4. Do the details make the story clearer and more interesting?
5. Does the dialogue help tell the story and make the characters more interesting? Does the dialogue convey a sense of the relationships among the characters?
6. Have I kept to one well-focused incidents at a time (or several well-focused incidents if I am telling about an interesting character)?
7. Are the characters’ qualities evident?
8. Have I set the stage properly and given some background if necessary?
9. Have I looked into my innermost feelings for the truth of the story?
10. Have I improvised toward the facts where my memory needs some help? Particularly in adding dialogue?
11. Do I have a spine to the story? Have I begun the story in the right place? Is the climax expanded enough?
12. Are my own emotions the subject of any part of the story?
Thank you for reading this article about how to use storytelling and I really hope that you take action my advice.
I wish you good luck and I hope its contents have been a good help to you.