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Tell a story they can't ignore! These 10 tips will teach you how

May 10, 2022 - 13 min read

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What is the importance of storytelling?

How to tell a good story

4 extra tips for introverts (and extroverts, too) 

How can storytelling help you at work?

4 examples of how to tell good stories

Gather around the campfire

Good storytellers give you the basic information — everything you need to know. 

But better storytellers keep you on the edge of your seat, hanging onto every last word they say. The punchline leaves you reeling with emotion, whether it's humorous, sad, or hilarious. It's an art form. 

Learning how to tell a good story is a valuable skill for anyone to have. Telling stories at work can help you get to know your team members and build personal connections, but it’s especially helpful for a leader or manager.

As a leader, you’re the person who people look to for inspiration. You break the ice at intimidating work functions, and motivate others to do their best. Being able to share stories about similar struggles or lift a team member’s mood with a funny story makes a difference in the workplace. 

Learning to tell a good story is more involved than you might think. Sure, you need a good story to tell, but there's more to it than your content. Having a great story to tell but fumbling the delivery will ruin it. We all know how frustrating it is when you have a compelling story to tell, but you struggle to convey it.

Everyone runs into this problem, no matter how well-versed you are at communication. That’s why we're going to dissect the art of telling stories to help you become an excellent storyteller. 

 

What is the importance of storytelling?

Storytelling is the primary form of communication that human beings share. We can find stories everywhere.

Stories live on social media, podcasts, TED talks, and fictional novels. We're constantly conveying our own experiences to shed light on important issues and help people feel seen. 

Great storytelling also helps us form memories and reflect on memories. People remember it well when you know how to tell a good story in conversation, especially if they found something relatable or insightful. 

Our brains become more engaged when we listen to people's stories, and it makes us focus while we learn new things. Knowing how to tell a good story at a party will put your social anxiety at ease.

It's also a way to build self-confidence and connect with others. Shy individuals might find that storytelling gets them out of their comfort zone and keeps them socially connected.

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How to tell a good story

Telling a compelling story that has your audience yearning for more can take some thought. There's plenty to think about, and sometimes winging it doesn't do your story justice.

Here are 10 storytelling tips to think about next time you have a story to share:

  1. Make eye contact with your listeners.
  2. Have interactive parts where you ask questions
  3. Include some backstory to help the audience understand better.
  4. Evaluate your surroundings to make sure it's an appropriate time to share.
  5. Play around with timing and your tone of voice.
  6. Have a clear theme and stay on topic.
  7. Include some conflict throughout the narrative.
  8. Study talk shows or celebrity interviews to pick up on their tricks.
  9. Share the whole story without missing any details.
  10. Finish with a punchline that creates a reaction.

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4 extra tips for introverts (and extroverts, too) 

We can’t make generalizing statements about how only introverts need help with storytelling, because that’s simply false. Plenty of self-proclaimed introverts are amazing storytellers. After all, we can’t label someone’s strengths and weaknesses based on their personality type.

Don’t let being an introvert limit your skills. Good storytelling is something anyone can achieve. 

Storytelling can be difficult for anyone. Even extroverts may feel uncomfortable and awkward when it’s their time to share. With all eyes on you, your public speaking skills might waiver. But these fears shouldn’t deter you from using your voice to share stories that make people laugh, feel more comfortable, or teach something.

Here are four tips for introverts and extroverts alike to use to strengthen storytelling skills:

1. Seize their attention

Begin to think about how you can pique the interest of your listeners to keep them engaged throughout your whole story. Are there parts you can cut out that aren't needed and boring? 

Also, avoid overused words like "interesting" and "amazing" in your story. Use bold adjectives that attract people's interests and cause them to start thinking about where your story will take them.

2. Get them involved

Unless you have props or any other visual cues, it's up to you to fill your story with imagery. Pause and let them process what you're saying. Give them time to laugh or burst out with gasps. 

The best stories allow your audience to think about their own experiences or if they can relate to what you're saying. Making your story interactive engages your audience and keeps them wondering what you'll say next.

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3. Keep your words casual

Jargon confuses people, and when you're trying to convey a story, you don't want to confuse your listeners. Using complicated terms without adequately explaining them or for no reason doesn't help keep people's interest. 

Without watering down your story too much, remind yourself why you're telling the story in the first place. Don't stray too far from the story's purpose and tailor it to the audience.

4. Be mindful of the mood

Is your story funny, sad, or happy? Reflect on the mood that you want to put your listeners in. Think about your voice, tone, and body language.

These all contribute to how you convey your story. If eye contact is hard for you, try changing your voice to take on the different characters you're talking about. You want to help the audience feel the mood you're trying to establish in any way you can.

Like storytelling, public speaking can challenge people who don't always like to speak up. With personalized support from BetterUp, your coach help guide you to develop the communication skills you need to become a confident speaker who can use their voice effectively in front of any crowd.

How can storytelling help you at work?

Man-telling-a-story-gesturing-to-his-colleagues-at-work (1)

We tend to think about storytelling as something we do in our personal lives, but good storytelling skills can benefit us in the workplace. In real life, we're telling stories all the time. It could be why you're late for work or why you're encountering problems.

Storytelling helps strengthen your communication skills to better articulate anything you want to convey. If you're feeling overwhelmed or having problems with your self-confidence at work, storytelling can help you express yourself to create honest and truthful discussion.

Sharing stories also builds connections between people. Telling stories while you network can ease your nerves and make you feel more relaxed. Even if they’re short, your stories will still add to the conversation. They may help you get to know your team members if you're new to your workplace and help your team members get to know you. 

4 examples of how to tell good stories

There are tools apart from your voice out there to help you tell your story. Sometimes they speak for themselves, and other times they can accompany your words. If the situation is appropriate, think about what you can add to your story to make your audience more compelling.

Here are four examples of tools that people use in their storytelling:

  1. TV shows and movies costumes play up to each character’s storylines and personalities.
  2. Stand-up comedians change their voices and body language when they do impressions of people.
  3. Spoken word poets can have a beat in the background to keep their pace and set the mood.
  4. People can use visual props like puppets, stuffed animals, and artwork to illustrate their story.

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Gather around the campfire

Storytelling has been around since the beginning of time itself, and it's not going anywhere. 

Being comfortable with sharing your stories is a skill that will take you far, both personally and professionally. Knowing how to tell a story is a skill that will never go unused. 

Even though right now it might make your stomach drop just thinking about speaking in front of a crowd, it could turn into something that empowers you. Hearing your voice speak confidently can be the source of motivation you need to put yourself out there more often. You never know where your stories might take you.

BetterUp will help guide you towards practicing the best strategies to help you become a better storyteller. The personalized plan that you'll experience will show you what it's like to have a supportive mentor to help you achieve your goals.

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Published May 10, 2022

Madeline Miles

Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.

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