Stories provide a wonderful way of opening a door of communication into people’s lives. Stories can transport your audience into a state of delight and discovery if done properly and performed well. Building a modern-day business culture in your organization requires many ingredients. A couple of those ingredients include myths, legends and stories. As human beings, our appetite for story is a reflection of our need to grasp patterns of living, not just as an exercise, but it is a very personal, emotional experience.
Leaders who become great storytellers possess a great advantage in leading people, teams and organizations. Think about it. Each week millions of people, mostly who do not know each other, sit in darkened rooms together, concentrate on a large screen and experience the power of story together. On average, Hollywood produces around one produced story, or as we call them, movies per day. Our love of stories is deep and personal.
A good story is a story well told that people want to hear. This is a talent the leader should put some focus on developing. The love of story, of vivid characters and a world spun and created by your passion is not enough. You must become good at telling the good story. Both you and the story must be good together. It’s not just getting up in a group and telling a story, although that can be part of it. One of the strongest ways is to weave stories into conversation. Keeping your memories quickly on hand and collectable for the proper occasion. Stories should be used to illustrate points in a strong way while having a strong entertainment factor.
Your people want to hear, tell and create stories with you. It builds organizational culture and increases bonding. Good storytelling requires practice, paying attention to what works and what doesn’t. Occasionally in your excitement to use stories, you might start rambling, going too long or get off point. Be self-aware enough to notice this and just stop. Admit you are way off point, adjust and get back on track quickly. Many leaders have not had the benefit of speech training and experience which provided a place to practice and build this skill. Still, practice is necessary in all skills and storytelling is no exception. Be sure you don’t tell the same stories over and over becoming repetitive and non-effective, so you will also have to work to always replenish your supply of stories to be fresh.
Life is full of stories. Our lives and professional careers are rich with anecdotes everywhere. As you are around people, pay more attention to them as they talk. As you read, pay more attention to how the author weaves stories into their writing. Pay more attention to how actors deliver their characters and lines. Reflect on your daily experiences and think about how you can develop a story around them which would be impactful on someone going through the same circumstances, then write the story down in an organized fashion and practice delivering it effectively. Then, find someone to which you can practice telling the story and watch for reaction.
Here are four simple ways to increase your storytelling skillset:
1. Don’t over explain
When we are not clear ourselves about the story we are telling, we tend to ramble around in the details. Repetition works well in communication except in one instance, storytelling. We don’t need to hear meaningless details over and over again. Make sure you edit yourself wisely. If it’s really not needed for the person to get the main point of the story, then throw it out, it doesn’t matter!
2. Don’t shut down your story trying to remember nouns
Sometimes when we tell a story, we can’t remember the name of a person, a place or a certain thing, we really goof up the rhythm of the story. A story is just like a good joke, you are headed to the punch line or the point. Don’t strain yourself when you can’t remember the noun, just delete it from the story, chances are the audience doesn’t know the person, the place can be interchanged, and the thing can be re-inserted somewhere else or taken out altogether.
3. Don’t be in too big a hurry
Delivery of your story is everything. Comedians are masters at delivering content. If you don’t hit the main points at the right cadence or at the right timing and speed, you can lose the whole effect you were trying to achieve with your story. Control your breathing and slow your mind down.
4. Keep the background simple
Yes, the listeners of your story need a certain amount of background in order to get the meaning of your story, at the same time, they don’t need ALL the background. They only need the relevant pieces. Remember, the story is there to enhance your main message. The story itself is background and your message is foreground. If you make the background of your story too important, then you water down the point of your story and your audience may completely lose your main message.
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