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Tips for Smarter Living :Telling a Good Story

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 3, 2018

Storytelling has moved from the children’s library into the workplace.  Managers are now using stories to make a point, make themselves believable, and lead their teams. 

Storytelling immediately brings your audience with you and helps you better convey any information you want them to know or learn.

But storytelling is also something most people are happy to avoid: it means speaking about yourself in front of people.  Research has told us that people fear public speaking/storytelling more than they fear death!

So how can you learn to use this very effective way of communicating information?  By doing it!

Here are a few tips to get started:

  •  Who is listening? In other words, who is your audience – friends, strangers, colleagues? A large mixed group? You need to know this to find something that connects you to them. Knowing your relationship brings you closer to knowing a story that’s right for them. 
  • What story should you tell?  The best story comes from something close to you – something personal. Hearing a personal story gives your audience permission to think of you as human, which builds an empathetic relationship between you and them – a necessary ingredient to being a good leader.  Everybody can relate to being human.

    Remember: knowing your audience is always key: you have to know who is listening to find the right way to tell your story.  
  • Be sure to fit the occasion.  Focus on something that connects you and your audience. What experiences do you have in common? This is easy enough for a group of colleagues or a family gathering but even if you’re facing an audience of strangers, think about the occasion of your talk to find some clues.  (Hint: you can always win over an audience of strangers by being funny or personal or by asking a question that your story answers.)
  • Structure the story.  Start with the characters and introduce them quickly. Don’t have too many and make them vivid.

    Then introduce a conflict, either between the characters or with some external force. Your character must face a challenge because the challenge is what moves your story forward and keeps your audience’s interest: they will want to know what happens. 
  • Now, get started! Either start saying your story – and record it – or write down a rough first draft and record yourself reading it.

    What does it sound like? Where did you stumble? What’s missing and what’s included that doesn’t belong?  Write a draft that includes these corrections. Record yourself reading it again and repeat the process: what’s good, what’s bad, what’s missing. Rewrite these revisions and now you have a second draft.
  • Practice, practice, practice.  Speak in front of an audience you trust and listen to their feedback. Learn the story well enough to tell it without notes because speaking directly to your audience without reading furthers your connection to them.

Storytelling, when done well, establishes your bona fides with an audience.  Start small in comfortable situations with people you know well to hone your skills and then take your storytelling on the road – to professional speaking situations and in your workplace.  You’ll learn to enjoy being fearless!

Submitted by:
Carol Jambor-Smith, Ph.D.
Principal, Jambor-Smith Communications

Professional Women's Club of Chicago, PWCC is a Chicago based networking organization that provides networking connections that support, enrich and inspire women to advance professionally and personally. Members come from public and private sectors, multi-billion dollar corporations, mid-size and small businesses, as well as, non-profit organizations. Membership is open to women from all industries in all stages of their careers who want to develop a strong lifelong network. Learn more about membership and upcoming activities


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