How To Be A Great Storyteller
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world.”
– Robert McKee
Everyone loves a good story. People are wired to stories and are the oldest form of human communication. It helps us to explore, learn, and reserve information. Storytelling has a major role when it comes to engaging with people, communicating your ideas, and making a connection. Basically, stories connect us.
So What is Storytelling?
According to National Storytelling Network ‘Storytelling is the interactive art of using words and actions to reveal the elements and images of a story while encouraging the listener’s imagination’.
Simply put, Storytelling is described as an ‘Art’ of storytelling- it requires vision, creativity, skills, and imagination. It’s not something that can be perceived in one go, it needs practice. It’s emotional and engaging. Writers use facts and narratives to connect with the audience. It's like painting a picture with words for others to understand.
Why Do We Need Storytelling?
“Storytelling is the greatest technology that humans have ever created.”
— Jon Westenberg
This concept has existed since ancient times. Earlier cave paintings were used to reveal stories and experiences. Storytelling is something we do from adolescence- an inborn characteristic that comes naturally to us and we use it to connect to others at an emotional level.
When applied in marketing and business, storytelling is one of the most critical elements. Great storytelling is important to sell your idea to the world, to sell your product, shape your business, speak for your brand, connect with your audience, inspire people, etc.
1. Stories bring people together from different cultures, backgrounds, religions, and create a sense of community. We tell stories to dream, imagine, and connect to others.
2. Stories help you understand complicated ideas and helps you strengthen abstract concepts. They help you better understand a concept and help you to be in charge of your narrative.
3. Stories promote brand loyalty. When the brand is transparent and authentic it helps the audience to connect with the brand. They persuade and motivate the audience by linking people’s emotions with the stories. To sell a brand, a business, a product - you tell a story.
4. Being a great storyteller can help you become a great and strong leader. When you tell a story it helps you explain the problems, encourage the people to see the solution or the situation the way you do. With your storytelling abilities, you’ll be able to motivate others.
5. Storytelling gives you the authority of your personal narratives. You will be in charge of your narratives and give you the decision power, helping you decide the cause and effect of the story.
Effective storytelling involves a deep understanding of human emotions, motivations, and psychology in order to truly move an audience.
- Brian G. Peters
(6 Rules of Great Storytelling -As Told By Pixar)
Everyone is a storyteller. But what differentiates good storytelling and great storytelling? Storytelling is a trial-and-error process and practice makes it perfect. A storytelling process should start with knowing your target audience. Great storytelling should have stories that are universal, entertaining, memorable, and strong characters. Great storytelling should have a core message with a purpose. Great storytelling should be simple and focused yet very surprising. It should involve a deep understanding of emotions.
Now that we know what makes great storytelling, how do you actually get better at it?
Improving your storytelling will always enhance your writing and make your work relatable and easy to understand. Here are some tips and exercises to improve your storytelling.
1. Write & Practice
As a writer, you need to be adaptable. Whether it’s a blogpost, advertisements, billboards, and more, you need to practice enough to build up your writing skills. Practice with your friends and colleagues to sharpen your idea into a compelling story. Use your words to communicate your vision. You can practice storytelling by being more aware of the opportunities around you to tell stories. For example, turn to stories to explain things to a kid, tell a story about how you came up with the idea. Make the stories as vividly engaging as possible.
2. Follow the rules of storytelling
Every story has a start, middle, and end. Here’s a tip- always start with the ending. You should know where you’re going and what should be the audience’s takeaway. Once the end is decided, construct your story and narrative depending on it. The beginning lays the basics, the middle details the struggle, and the end provides the conclusion. Spend time focusing on the conclusion and think of ways you can tell your story in the most effective way. Remember, effective storytelling should evoke emotions and strongly connect with the audience.
3. Keep it simple and shorter.
Focus on the principle “Less is More”. You don’t need to add unnecessary details of the wrong kind to make your story epic and surprising. An effective story just demands few and well-placed details. In the end, the audience remembers the highlights rather than all the details. Keep in mind, you don’t have to say everything that could be said related to the story but everything that should be said.
4. Read, listen & tune in to stories.
Reading is just as important as writing. Reading other copywriter’s work will help you understand different styles of writing. Read blogs, articles, billboards, newspapers, magazines, etc to enhance your writing. Pay attention to the stories you read, hear, and experience in your daily lives. Understand the style, fascinating descriptions, and the structure of the stories you like in the story you hear and make use of such elements in your storytelling.
5. Observe and tell stories from your own experiences
One of the easiest ways to write stories is to start with your own personal experiences. Show your own emotions in the story, let the audience feel the same emotions. Look into your memories and life experiences to find ways to explain your story. Observe your surroundings, people around you- sometimes eavesdropping can become a great dialogue for your storytelling and this will help you to integrate first and second-hand experiences as needed.
6. Details are important
A great story should have specific kinds of details. Your storytelling should have strong key elements like characters, setting, and plot. These elements build up a strong narrative and hold your audience's interest. Start the story by describing the surroundings around. Details matter because it sets the foundation for imagination. Describing the scenes in detail and playing around with the words to bring an impact on 5 senses will help you attract your audience.
So storytelling is a learning journey and it takes practice to become a great storyteller. So go out. Write more. Read more and share your stories. You will get better!