How to tell stories better

Dec 16, 2014 | Better Writing

We love stories

We love stories. The most boring speaker can grab our attention with just the promise that he or she is about to tell a story.

Stories are powerful communications tools and more

And stories are great communications tools. You can pack a lot of information and insight into a story.

Now stories are the all purpose success tool, too. That’s what Alina Tugend’s article in the New York Times is about. It’s titled “Storytelling Your Way to a Better Job or a Stronger Start-Up,” and includes this marvelous line.

“Learning — or relearning — how to tell stories requires some skill. And consultants and researchers are lining up to teach it, often for a hefty fee.”

As a public service, I’ve waived the hefty fee. Here’s the inside scoop on how you can become a better storyteller.

You get better by practicing

Yes, it’s true. All the coaching and hefty fees will do you little good if you don’t practice telling stories the right way.

First you tell your story. Then you critique your performance. Then you repeat the process attempting to apply the lessons you learned. Master one story before you move on to another story.

Tell your stories out loud to people

Knowledge of different kinds of story structures can help, but you’ll make the most progress the fastest if you tell your stories out loud to real people, in person, and one at a time. Two good things will happen.

You will discover what works and what doesn’t. When people stop you for an explanation or just look puzzled, they’re giving you valuable information about something you should do differently.

The other marvelous thing that will happen is that you will not tell the story exactly the same way every time. Some of the changes you make will be really good. You can incorporate them into your story the next time you tell it.

Tell the story over and over

In my experience, it takes at least fifteen to twenty tellings, plus critiques, to get a story right. It’s like anything else you want to master, it will take you time and intelligent effort.