“Hurry! We’ve got to run and get out of here!” one of the campers shouted at his buddy.
His friend casually picked up a tennis shoe, carefully tied the laces, and looked for a sock for his other foot.
“Don’t you understand?” the camper warned. “We’ve got to run fast. Now!”
“I don’t need to run fast,” replied his less-than-concerned friend. “I only need to run faster than you.”
You do not expect Goldilocks to be introduced in this story. You don’t expect to hear, “And they all lived happily ever after.” However, as effective storytellers, it is important to connect our stories to our purpose or we confuse our audience and the point is lost.
If you want to be a terrific storyteller, motivate and inspire your listeners, and invite them into meaningful transformation, remember these fundamental storytelling tips:
I was invited to speak at a large event about core values last year. One of the members of the interviewing committee said, “We know you can talk about the topic, but I heard you give a talk 10 years ago. We don’t want a speech. Speak from your heart. Tell your story.”
I smiled. And I was afraid. Have you ever felt like that? Your face and your words communicated one thing, but your gut said something else? I was prepared to say anything – but the truth.
In the context of that particular presentation, I shared my experiences with depression. I revealed how ashamed and afraid I felt when I first asked for help. Although the thought of talking about my personal experiences was terrifying because I did not want to appear weak or broken in front of my listeners, it also provided an opportunity to connect the story with the purpose of the presentation: aligning one’s life purpose with one’s core values.
Courage is one of my core values. Asking for help took courage. Sharing my experiences with others demanded a lot more courage.
When we tell our story, we sometimes straddle the very thin line between adding a personal touch and providing too much information. “Stories always have to land on the point that you’re teaching,” insists popular motivational speaker Lisa Nichols. “Weave the message inside of the story. A good story will drive listeners to action.”
Secondly, the story must connect you to your listeners. You can inspire personal transformation inside of your story. You cannot Google-download transformation; it must come from deep within your authentic self.
Rick Segel is retail sales expert and author of Retail Business Kit For Dummies. He recently shared an experience as a conference audience member in England. One of the speakers at the conference delivered a powerful presentation that motivated and inspired listeners. However, the speaker used the same speech, word for word, as a speech delivered by the individual who won the international Toastmasters contest that same year. The award-winning speech was posted on YouTube and seen by more than 10,000 viewers.
Walk your talk … not someone else’s talk. Tell your own stories. Remember that, as a storyteller, your walk and your talk must align with your core values.
Finally, your story must invite listeners to connect with their own story. Questions peppered within the context of your speech often provide wonderful avenues to connect your story to those of your listeners. I can gauge if my questions or stories connect listeners with their own stories by watching their body language. If they’re nodding or laughing, they’re usually connecting.
I recently asked a young man at a networking event about his iPad. I explained I wanted to purchase one.
He told me he had an Apple iPad 2 and asked what kind of car I drove.
“A Toyota Scion,” I replied, confused but eager to learn more about the iPad.
“Would you recommend a Scion to me?” he asked.
“Of course,” I answered, “but …”
“But you don’t know what my automobile needs are,” he replied.
He scolded me for not asking specific questions about his needs first before making a recommendation. He handed me his business card and offered to provide me with marketing coaching. For a price.
Have you ever asked someone a question about a product and it turns into a sales pitch? I felt angry, frustrated, and told him if I wanted whatever it was he was selling, I’d ask for it.
As I turned away, a woman behind me handed me her business card.
“Hi, my name is Lauren,” she said. “I’m a business coach.”
“Thank you very much,” I curtly replied, “but I don’t need a business coach and I’m not interested.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she quickly replied. “I heard you speak a couple of weeks ago about core values and depression. I just wanted to let you know your words changed my life.”
I apologized and thanked her for the lessons she taught me about patience, jumping to conclusions, and living in alignment with core values.
In my book, Dreams to Action Trailblazer’s Guide, I explain that our core values are tested through our words, actions, and the decisions we make every day. Lauren taught me a a valuable lesson about living – and speaking – in alignment with the values I embraced.
The art of storytelling provides listeners with meaningful opportunities to join you on your journey. The story invites us into that magical, pivotal place where we experience intimacy- and it is within those precious moments of the story where you and I are transformed.