Storytelling is the art of taking events, experiences, thoughts, and ideas that can trigger emotions, instill moral values, educate and serve as a way of sharing traditions, and narrate them in a way that people can relate to, become interested and invested in knowing more, eager to apply the lessons derived from it, or simply be entertained by it.
Why Storytelling is Important?
A simple story shared among friends has the effect of grabbing their attention; imagine applying the same tactics on a larger crowd. The impact will be nothing short of magical.
Storytelling can never go wrong except of course when it’s not well thought of and planned for. Hence, it is always advised that in order to get the attention of your audience, you should rehearse a story which is related to the belief system and ethics of your audience, whether professionally, religiously or culturally. Either way, a story is meant to move and spur the audience to action, a form of motivation or a technique to pick up and arouse interest.
So, in the short summary, you can use stories to persuade your audience to reason in line with your presentation. As a matter of fact, storytelling makes up a whopping 65% of the human conversation. We randomly talk about work, school, our kids, family, and many other things which may relate one way or the other. In times past, dating up to the prehistoric era, storytelling has been a tool used to pass morals from the older ones to the younger ones.
Therefore, the use of storytelling to persuade your audience is an art which should not only be learned but also mastered as a primary technique of influence. One thing you should also take note of is that stories sprout from experiences, and humans tend to learn more and react appropriately through the experience shared. Whether the story told to the audience is veridic or a fable, such a story should have the element of realism to be believable.
8 Things You Should Know to Master Storytelling
1. Know your Audience & the Environment
Take into cognizance of the context and the environment before telling a story. Then fine tune the story to fit your given audience. This will increase how compelling your story will be to the cognitive understanding of the audience.
Putting it simply, by first considering who you are telling your story to, and where you are more likely to leave the desired impact on your audience. That’s what’s meat by knowing your audience if you’d like tips on how to conduct audience research, then check out this post where I share 10 tips on conducting the best audience analysis before the big day.
2. Figure out a Great Ending and then Structure the whole Story
When telling a story, you should be able to build your story towards your ending. Giving the information in your story in a haphazard manner will not do justice to that story. Your story should follow a seemingly logical manner, not just jumping from middle to the beginning then back to the middle again and finally, the end. By doing this, you tend to lose your audience in the story. The story automatically loses its vibe and dies off. You do not want this as a public speaker. Hence, use a unique story structure to captivate your audience all through your presentation with the ending in mind.
Think about those movies that start with a glimpse of the ending, and then they start telling you how things turned out the way they did, and obviously right at the very end there is a twist to it, it’s not exactly as you saw in the beginning, otherwise it would be boring, right?
Not only that, many will advise you to start your stories at the end, and then work your way up to that point (who doesn’t like flashbacks?). We actually do that almost every day, here’s an example:
‘I had an accident last night.’ Then people will ask ‘What happened? Are you ok?’, you reply ‘Yes, thank God, just a few bruises.’ Then the person asks, ‘How did that happen?’ You then start telling them the whole story, up until the point where you had the accident, and perhaps beyond with going to the hospital, and so on. So, what you did here, was starting your story with the end which was the actual accident and that is what people will expect to know in detail the how, the where, and who was involved.
Whatever your story about, whether it is fictional or nonfictional, such story should imbibe the element of realism and should also be one which your audience can easily relate to. Take, for instance, Maslow’s law of nature suggests that human survives base on particular simple necessities.
Hence, the ability to make your audience relate to the given story will have a significant effect on how positive or negative they react to the presentation in general.
4. Delivery, Delivery, Delivery
Recall back to that friend/relative of yours who seems to have naturally being born a master storyteller, everyone enjoys his talks and call him gifted. It’s as if he/she always knows how to make the simplest of stories into a captivating narrative, and his body, his voice, his tone everything is just an added element to his storytelling skills. Well, I have had that experience with friends and relatives of mine too.
The mood and manner with which you present your story can give off the story from the start of can catch the attention of the whole crowd throughout your speech. This depends largely on your delivery skill. Hence, the use of body gestures, pacing, and even your ability to create imagery in the minds of your listeners may be all you need to be great at using storytelling effectively in public speaking. Hence, the usage of appropriate language, body movements, and pacing will form part of the delivery needed to compel the audience.
One of the things we learn from movies and comics, for example, is that when delivering on your story, you must keep people yearning for more, and create scenarios where there is a weak hero who then grows to become stronger as life throws several impossible challenges after him/her. We find ourselves rooting for the hero, becoming anxious whenever there’s a hint of a new problem, and in some cases when the storytelling is really superb we find ourselves yelling and jumping of joy with the fact that the hero has managed to overcome his challenge.
5. Draw vivid images in the mind of the Audience
One of the most amazing storytelling skills you can master is the ability to draw vivid images in the minds of the audience. Instead of merely telling them about what happened, you actually make them picture what happened. For example:
You could say. ‘The children started to cry.’ Or
‘Tears started flowing down the children’s cheeks.’
Here, the idea is using the words shivering (which people can easily imagine to highlight the fact that it was cold) and the words ‘tears flowing down’ (to help the audience picture that they were crying)
Most professional public speakers have mastered the use of imagery in storytelling to buttress their points and make their audience listen more to their presentation. From a study, the brain can easily relate to characters in a story and unconsciously align their personal experience with given characters even without knowing. This is where imagery comes into play. A good public speaker trying to make use of storytelling should also master the art of imagery, and giving life to characters through words.
6. It Must be Engaging
Your story should be engaging. Most great speakers employ the use of metaphors to gain 100 percent attention. Capitalize on the use of suspense; engage the overall mental awareness of your crowd. This way, you easily become one with the audience. When an audience is aroused by a story, they easily relate with the story and automatically look forward to a satisfactory ending of the story based on the mental picture they have formed before the development of the story.
According to Tom Gerace, who is the founder of Skyword, brand marketers recognize the rapid decline in interruptive advertising; And will be shifting an increasing share of the $600 billion they spend annually on ads towards original storytelling.
7. It’s one of the most excellent Persuasive Techniques
A story should be persuasive in nature. This way, it becomes easier to influence the thinking of your audience, making them feel that your idea is theirs. This can only be possible through the spur of emotional responses from the audience.
It is critical that you learn the right persuasive speech techniques to properly use storytelling to convince your audience into buying or adopting your idea, your view of the world, and therefore succeeding in persuade them. If you’re interested, there’s a great post that will teach you 8 critical persuasive speech techniques, and main persuasive speech topics that you could use to convince your audience of your idea.
8. You should LOVE the Story
In my experience, the stories that connect with people the most are those that the creators or narrators themselves, cannot help but share it. Often times, we are not solely drawn to the name of the author/narrator, but to the passion that emanates from their writing or voice upon delivery. If you are genuinely excited and passionate about the story, or directly invested in it, then people will surely feel that and love your storytelling more than they would otherwise.
Storytelling has a unique power to persuade and motivate. Because they (stories) capture the audience, you have to pick stories that stimulate the brain and mental setting of the audience, this way, it becomes easier for you as the speaker to control the thinking of your audience.
There is beauty in public speaking, as it serves as a means to educate, inspire, persuade, inform, explain, or convey thoughts and ideas. If you add to that excellent storytelling, then it brings out the raw and undiluted flavor in presentation and spices up your delivery.
References & Further Reading
Brian Peters. https://medium.com/@Brian_G_Peters/6-rules-of-great-storytelling-as-told-by-pixar-fcc6ae225f50 . 6 Rules of great storytelling as told by Pixar. Accessed on 06/07/2019.
Pixar Storytelling Rules. http://themetapicture.com/pixars-rules-of-storytelling/ . Accessed 06/08/2019.