“Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, challenge. They help us understand. They imprint a picture on our minds. Want to make a point or raise an issue? Tell a story.” — Janet Litherland

People with the X-Factor have mastered the art of storytelling, if you want to get a point across, move someone to a cause or be remembered you need to learn how to do it well.

A story told in an authentic, masterful way that connects on an emotional level engages people like nothing else. This is because almost everyone can relate to problems, challenges and obstacles that a hero/heroine overcomes and at the same time offers a lesson for us all. Think back to the presentations that have inspired you the most and really stuck in your mind, the chances are they started with a story. Nearly every TED talk features a story in it especially the most successful ones, if you don’t believe me take a look at the TED talk below it is brilliant because it is about storytelling and he demonstrates the techniques by telling stories.

If you watched the TED talk you will already be on your way to becoming a master storyteller, but it also requires lots of practice and the 7 tips below will help you to get started. So, tell stories they are really worth the effort.

Possible benefits

  • More memorable presentations
  • Improved influencing/selling skills
  • More compelling arguments
  • More chance of being listened too
  • A deeper understanding of yourself and others
  • Builds trust and connects

Seven Tips for Storytelling

1. Make it about the people
People connect with other people, so make sure you focus your story on the real-life characters of your story. Even if you are presenting facts and information you can still relate it to people. Everyone loves a hero or heroine and your audience will want to know what their challenges were, what was the impact, how did they overcome them and what was the lasting message.

2. Bring your characters to life
An important part of storytelling is making the story personable and relatable. When characters speak to each other in a story, it lends immediacy urgency and authenticity to the piece. So use direct quotes and let characters speak in individual voices, lending credibility to the dialogue.

3. Keep your audience engaged We are all time poor these days and our attention spans are strained, unless you’re keeping people interested, you are wasting your breath. So, when telling a story, raise their curiosity, make them wonder “what happens next?” or “how is this going to turn out?” As the people in your story pursue their goal, they must run into obstacles, surprises, or something that makes the audience sit up and take notice.

4. Connect with emotions
Human beings are not inclined to think about things they don’t care about. Stories stir emotions not to be manipulative, not simply for melodramatic effect, but to break through the white noise of information that continuously inundates us and to deliver the message: this is worth your attention.

5. Paint mental pictures
Show don’t tell is the most fundamental maxim of storytelling, and for good reason. Your audience should see a picture, feel the conflict, and become more involved with the story – not just be receptacles for a long list of facts.

6. Don’t forget the “moment of truth”
The best stories show us something about how we should treat ourselves, others, or the world around us. Call it an “Aha” moment – that point when your story conveys a message that really makes your audience say, “Yes! That’s a powerful idea.”

7. Keep it relevant and on message
When the final line is spoken, your audience should know exactly why they took this journey with you. In the end, this may be the most important rule of all. If your audience can’t answer the question, “What was the story all about?” and “why was it relevant?” it won’t matter if you followed rules one through six.

This last point is the most important. What do you want the audience to feel? What do you want the audience to remember? What was the critical moment in the story? Make sure you know what message you want your audience to come away with, so that the story you’ve told is one your audience can retell, too, that’s the biggest complement you can get when you hear someone telling your story as if it was yours!

In part three we will look at empathy and how to be genuine and authentic when empathising.