One important aspect of leadership are storytelling skills because a definition of leadership is inspiring others to make a story (i.e. vision) come true. When you tell others of your vision for your business, you are essentially telling them a story.
Storytelling may be through face to face, e.g. presenting to an audience, or it could be done through the written word, e.g. when you are writing on your blog or updating your website or updating your Linkedin profile or writing a social media post.
Bill Gurley once said: “The great storytellers have an unfair competitive advantage. They are going to recruit better, they will be darlings in the press, they are going to raise money more easily and at higher prices, they are going to close amazing business developer partnerships, and they are going to have a strong and cohesive corporate culture. Perhaps more to the point, they are more likely to deliver a positive investment return.”
So clearly, there are many benefits to improving your storytelling skills. When you do networking, people are going to like and remember you more because you tell good stories. Good storytelling skills will help boost your brand and your business as well. Weaving a good story can also help you make more sales because your target customers are hooked to your story and through the story, they will understand why they need your product.
Everyone loves a good story, so take the time to learn the strategies below to boost your storytelling skills. After all, Philip Pullman, an author, once said, “After nourishment, shelter, and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
Our brains are hardwired to be attracted to stories. It is so compelling that a good story will make us stop what we are doing and give our full attention to the storyteller.
Strategies to boost your storytelling skills
- Research well so you can use data and statistics in your stories
A study made by Stanford University found that if you embed your stories with data and statistics, it will boost retention rate by 65 to 70 percent.
- Develop a structure for your story. Use a great hook to get them into your story and then bring them to a rollercoaster of emotions while you unleash your story until you get to the climax or key point of your story. Try following Jen Tardiff’s structure for storytelling: Introduction, Incident, Stakes, Events, and Resolution
3. Don’t just share anecdotes without tying to a bigger point you are trying to make. So feel free to use your personal stories but use it to make a point related to your presentation or what you are trying to share to your audience. Also, choose stories that you like and enjoy. This will be easier to practice and share to your audience.
4. Connect with your audience by being relatable. It is important you know your audience first before you present so that you can use language, settings, characters, and characterizations that resonate with your audience.
5. If you are writing a blog or a social media post, you should put in a related image because people are visual creatures. Use the image to help you tell your point when you are presenting using a powerpoint. Don’t fill the slide with too many words. The fewer words, the more images, the better! Images are part of visual storytelling.
6. Tap pop-culture and current events in your stories You can make boring topics come alive by using stories that tap pop-culture and current events. This will make your data and information more palatable and of course, more memorable as it is likely something your audience can relate to.
7. Show, don’t tell.
Part of good storytelling skills is giving concrete details and letting your reader imagine the situation instead of telling them what to feel or see. Fill your anecdotes or stories with details of the place, the emotions driving the scene by being animated and showing emotion while you narrate your stories.
8. Be clear on the message you want to highlight for every story you tell. So plan out your story by first knowing the audience you are talking to and what valuable message do you want to share with them. Once you find out that burning message you want to share, you will be able to think of the best context or story to highlight that point.
9. Show your vulnerability in your stories. By being vulnerable, you show authenticity which makes you trustworthy and accessible to your audience. So dig into your personal life to find anecdotes that show the struggle, failure, and barriers and how you overcame them. These kinds of stories are effective because this resonates with your audience, people who are full of weaknesses just like you.
10. In your stories, limit the urge to highlight yourself regarding being the star. Focus on others and the lessons that the event provided you. If possible, make your audience the star or hero of your stories. This will boost engagement with them and influence them to follow your message or insight. If you keep tooting your own horn, your audience will likely shut down and won’t allow your messages to penetrate their mind.
11. A good story is not all happiness. There has to be some struggle to make it interesting. It has to have conflict. So embed your story with a solution on how the struggle was confronted and overcome. If the audience can relate to the struggle, they will feel inspired with the solution and hope that you offer. Through your stories, they become part of your journey, co-creators of the story.
12. Less is more. Keep things simple. A good story should not be complex and most of the time it does not have to be utterly unique. It can be a simple and straightforward experience that many people have encountered in their lives. Often, these simple stories are the ones that stick and make the most impact. So use those stories.
Omit unnecessary details in it so that your core message will stick. Too many details can confound your audience. Strategically choose the details that will help drive home your message, e.g. your feeling for that day, how your facial expression was like, and perhaps some key snippets of conversation.
Telling a great story is like telling a joke. You do not keep going around the bush before you get to the funny part of the joke. We only use details that are necessary for the joke to get the most laughs from our audience.
13. Practice telling your stories to improve your storytelling skills
Practice telling it your dog. Tell stories to your friends. Before you tell your story in a formal setting with a stage, tell the story first to your family and anyone willing to listen to the story. This will help you get better. Storytelling is a skill, and if you practice it regularly, you will get better at it and boost your confidence. You can join a Toastmasters group to help you get better with public speaking and boost your storytelling skills.
14. Use your own, unique, authentic voice
Be yourself when you tell your stories, especially in the written form. Don’t write neutrally. Write as how you would tell or narrate what you are writing.
15. Tell the stories that your audience wants to hear
Again, knowing your audience well is what will help you choose the stories that will resonate with them. Understand their context, their hopes, and their pains and let your stories cater to them. Imagine a single person of your audience listening to your story. Will it be interesting to them? Will their emotions be hit with it? If you answer yes to both questions, use and practice telling that story.
16. Start and end well. Our minds remember the start and ending better than the middle part. So make it count. Create the best start and ending for your story for maximum impact. Practice it the most so that your message will stick for your audience
17. Avoid going off-tangent
Sometimes in the spur of the moment, a detail triggers us to tell another story which is not important for the main story. Avoid this as this will make you lose momentum and you will lose the attention of your audience. So stick to your story outline. That is why practice is essential so that you will not veer away from your key messages.
18. End on a positive note
Audiences do not like a bad or sad ending. You want to craft your story in a way that the bad stuff are at the start or middle, but the end should have a positive end. This good feeling will instill hope and inspiration for your audience. Even if your story is tragic or is plainly sad, find the nugget of positive from it and use it at the end.
19. Be clear on the type of response you want to elicit from your stories. Is your purpose to get them fired up so that they will take action? Is the story just to educate them? Once you know the response you want to get, you will be able to craft your story better in line with your target response. Good stories make the audience feel. It elicits a reaction.
20. Embed some humor if possible
People love to have a good laugh so if you can integrate humor into your stories, even better. Your audience will love you for it, and the story with its corresponding messages will stick. Make your story fun and engaging. Bring out the comedian in you.
- Strategically use charts and even memes to boost your storytelling skills
Visuals such as charts and memes can drive your point better than narrating it. So try to see if there is an existing chart or meme you can use in your presentation so that your points will stick better. Memes are fun and will likely elicit a good laugh from your audience. Use visuals that enhance your story, not those that will just repeat your ideas.
- Surprise your audience
One way to boost your storytelling skills is to improve your art of giving a surprise. This means beginning with a predictable story and then surprising your audience by making a sudden twist to what is expected. Catch them completely off guard from time to time, and for sure your stories and messages will stick in their head.
- Give them a talk that they will remember
One way to be forever etched in the minds of your audience is performing some experiments or some activities on stage that will send a message. For example, I remember a talk once wherein the speaker wanted to fire up the audience to living life to the fullest. He sent a coffin on stage and reminded us that one day we are going to die and we should seek to fulfill our dreams and live with no regrets. From that day on, it spurred me to action knowing that my time here on earth is limited.
TED founder Chris Anderson once said, “A successful talk is a little miracle- people see the world differently afterward.”
- Use good pacing
Don’t be in a hurry to tell your story. Be confident and tell your story slow enough that will allow your audience to absorb the story. With your constant practice before the actual presentation, you will be able to find that perfect pace that will allow you to connect perfectly to your audience.
- Avoid too many gestures
When you are calm and confident, your gestures will be normal and natural. So take the time to calm down and visualize success before you go to your presentation. Too many gestures will stick in the mind of your audience instead of your message. So take your natural pace in presenting and telling your stories. Practice good eye contact as well with your audience.
Final Thoughts on Storytelling Skills
Investing time and effort to get better at storytelling will bring lots of benefits to your life, career, and business. It is an enjoyable activity as it allows you to connect to another human being and it can influence them to do good deeds and projects in the world and be the best that they can be. Use this superpower well.