Seven Secrets of Highly Effective Storytelling

If there is one skill that would help you to connect with your peers, customers, partners, spouse and kids equally and set you up for success, it is the ability to tell a story well.

The most effective way to influence people is through powerful stories.

The wonderful thing about this is that it is a skill that all of us can acquire with practice.

I stumbled upon a video where J.D. Schramm walks us through seven secrets to effective storytelling. You can watch the entire video below.

And if you are short on time, let me summarize the seven secrets that he talks about:

Almost all stories are made of three basic components:

  • Situation: The stories talk about a current state or a situation.
  • Conflict: Then there is a conflict that is introduced in the situation
  • Resolution: The rest of the story is about the resolution of that conflict.

Once we are aware of this basic tenet of story telling, the seven secrets of story telling success as shared by JD are as below:

  1. Parachute in… Don’t preamble: It is always better to dive straight into the story and not delve for a long time trying to setup context. Listeners (even kids) are smart and can figure out the context once you dive into your story. That is what humans as a race do. So, give your listeners some credit (and some work , so that they can engage with you and your story) and dive straight into your story.
  2. Choose your first words carefully: The first words that you use in telling a story set the context and tone of the story. Choose them wisely. They should capture the interest of your audience (a bit of this a little later).
  3. Secret of seduction (My adaptation): Seductresses know that in order to pique interest in them, they need to reveal just enough to pique curiosity. Similarly, it is always best to share just enough details in the story and let your audience figure out the rest of it in their individual heads. This way you are making the story personalized for each one of your listeners. Also, if you give people some information, it is natural tendency of the human mind to want to complete that information. So, you will have an engaged audience.
  4. One person, one thought: This is a way for you to create eye-contact with your entire audience. This is a simple practice where you connect with one person or a section of the audience, with one thought.
  5. The LongFellow principle (My adaptation): Ask yourself if there is a way that you can tell what you want to tell, by using analogies or concepts that your audience is already familiar with, so that you can convey your message but without having to flush out all details. That is what poets do.
  6. The Power of Silence: Silence is a key component of any communication. Silence can increase anticipation and suspense. If used well, silence is the best way to engage your audience.
  7. Know your AIM: This is probably the most important homework that every story teller needs to do. This is based on the “Key elements of effective communications” laid down by Russell & Munter
    1. Audience: You should know who your audience is, what do they expect and what works for that audience (culture)
    2. Intent: What is your intent or objective in telling the story.
    3. Message: The actual story itself (channel, structure)
  8. Practice: The best way to get good at this is by practice, lots of it. Create opportunities to tell stories – to your kids, employees, customers and anyone else who could listen.

We don’t remember charts and graphs, we might remember pictures but we do remember stories told well.

Any substantial change that has happened in our history has happened because someone, somewhere told an exceptional story.

So, what’s your story?

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