We’ve all got a friend who just goes on and on and on. Their stories are far too long. We’ve all read, or rather skimmed those social posts that are just rants, raves or rambles.
The sad truth is that no-one is as interested in your story as much as you are and people have incredibly low boredom thresholds.
We are all storytellers, no matter who we are or what we do - and we deliver our stories with varying degrees of brilliance or dullness.
So how can you be a great storyteller, for yourself or for your business?
Stories are not content. No-one says, ‘oh please, tell me all about your content’. Stories are not anecdotes. Stories are about struggle, change and purpose. The best stories do not flatter the storyteller.
Stories need to equally mesh relevance (to the person or brand) with interest (for the audience).
Stories are not stuffed with key words, jargon or bullshit. They flow with suspense, enticement or intrigue, they always need an injection of passion and to be grounded in authenticity.
A good story is powerful, entertaining; it teaches us something, it moves us emotionally and might make us change our minds.
Because it’s what we do, I was invited to speak at a General Assemb.ly workshop this month about the power of storytelling for brands. During my preparation I thought of some new stories and I revived some old ones - they still had relevance and appeal – and I learned lots of new stories too.
Here are my six top tips for improving your storytelling skills
Think KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid. How would you tell your Granny that story? It needs to be so simple it is easy to read or listen to, easy to understand and easy to remember. It’s far easier to remember if its short so keep it to well under 2.5 minutes, or 250 words. Any longer and you might lose people.
Think STAR – You may be thinking this stands for Situation, Task, Action and Results and that is a good logical way to build a story. But I think what’s better is to craft your story around Something They’ll Always Remember. A good story needs to stand out.
Remember to READ – Want to know how to tell a good story? Read how other people tell their stories, whether that’s through poetry, novels, journalism or film. Explore the form and structure that writers use and see why and how we tell stories. A brilliant book to get you started is Into The Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them by John Yorke.
Try to TEACH – Good storytelling should be powerful, entertaining and informative. It should teach the listeners something and have a purpose. If your story can teach people something new they will want to listen, understand and remember what you said. Perhaps you could even change their mind.
HUMILITY works - A story is about conflict and struggle. It should never be self-promotional or flattering towards the person telling the story. It’s a delicate balance; the audience should know you and trust you, but it shouldn't be all about you. Stories are not just about great triumph, they’re about humanity. Tell your audience something interesting, not just how brilliant you are.
CREATIVITY counts – An interesting story is also a creative one. Play around with form, structure and how you tell your story overall. Make sure it’s relevant to your audience but don’t be afraid to make it interesting. After all, you’re telling this story for a reason. If it’s not interesting, no one will listen.
We will always need to better understand and improve our storytelling skills; great companies and successful PR and comms campaigns are built on powerful memorable stories. Sometimes it takes a while to get it right, but you should always keep trying.