How storytelling is like swimming

Feb 9, 2015 | Better Writing

Storytelling is a leadership tool

The pundits have proclaimed that stories are a potent leadership tool. The pundits are right. The most effective leaders tell stories to connect with people and convey key messages.

Stories make business books great

The best business books are filled with stories. Some are long and some are short but they carry the message of the book. People remember the stories long after they’ve forgotten a list of bullet points.

Where do you start?

Over the years, I’ve worked with several businesspeople who understood the importance of stories and wanted to learn to tell them well. My advice to them is always the same.

Don’t try to learn to tell stories

“Telling stories” is a big subject. It’s also shapeless. There’s nothing you can grab hold of and no obvious way to start learning.

Start by learning to tell one story

Storytelling is more like swimming than it is like history. You learn it by doing it, critiquing your performance, and doing it better the next time.

Pick a story that matters to you and start telling it

Pick a story that you want to tell. Then tell it. Tell it to a person. Keep telling it to different people.

The first time it will probably be pretty rough. The second and third time it will get better. Along about the fourth or fifth time, you will find things coming out of your mouth that you didn’t plan.

Some of those will work and some won’t. Keep the ones that work. Keep telling the story.

Eventually, the story will become a natural part of you. You will tell it easily and naturally.

Then what?

Then pick another story. Learn to tell it by telling it often and critiquing your performance. When you’re done with that one, learn another one.

Bottom Line

To learn to tell stories well, start by learning to tell one story well.