Storytelling, a core career and life strength, is the art and science of influencing others through skillful communication and personal brand; not just telling great stories, but being a great story.
And everyone loves a great story.
Stories are part of what makes us human, and we’ve been telling and re-telling stories as long as we’ve had language. They have the ability to hook us in, connect with us emotionally, and inspire us.
Furthermore, stories are “sticky,” remaining in our minds and easy to share socially. And the best stories create links with our lives; pictures, emotions and voices in our heads. We feel the storyteller is speaking to us in particular.
Here’s some of the most important skills to develop as a storyteller:
- Creating and delivering a good opening “hook” that grabs people’s fleeting attention right away
- Providing just enough context to set up the key messages you want people to walk away with
- Showing vs. telling, using “sticky” word imagery, details, and intonation to draw people into the story
- Sharing how you took a risk and what you learned
- Creating anticipation or suspense early in the story
- Providing a few (just a few) tips that people can use right away
- Using humor, body language, and audience engagement wisely and sensitively
For some examples of storytelling in action, check out this series of posts called “Storytelling Night.”
As implied in my definition of storytelling, I truly believe this strength goes beyond “telling stories,” through common formats (oral, presentations, visual, written, TED Talk, etc.), to include the reality of each of us being stories…being, even more specifically, brands that tell a story.
“Brand” is a long-established marketing term referring to what a company, product, or service is “known for.” This knowing can be cognitive, emotional, and even subconscious, as this article
implies. Since each of us is known for something, whether we like it or not, we are “storytelling brands.”
What’s your storytelling brand, and what do you want it to be?
Stories With Data
Something to keep in mind: In many settings where you’re trying to influence others to make decisions or evaluate your work, telling effective stories while using data is especially important. Results matter, and it’s important to be able to speak to them both qualitatively and quantitatively.
Here’s three sites that will help you get stronger at this particular dimension of storytelling:
Our Common Challenge
Our volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world is distracted, and this situation worsens every minute as more information and choices become available. The executives, managers, and peers we’re presenting to in conference rooms are distracted, glancing at their phones every few minutes and daydreaming, because they’re stressed and overwhelmed.
The best storytellers will gain two gifts that are both precious and fleeting: other people’s attention and permission to tell the stories in the first place. Never take these two gifts for granted, and give thoughtful consideration to how you will earn and re-earn them.