Award-winning columnist, author and national champion speaker Kindra Hall presented at the 2017 Toastmasters International Convention, where she outlined strategies for telling an effective story. Here are four storytelling tips from her presentation entitled “The Irresistible Power of Strategic Storytelling”:
1. Understand why storytelling works
It’s no secret that humans are attracted to stories—but why? “The storytelling process is co-creative,” Hall explained during her presentation, referring to how people subconsciously insert their own experiences and memories into stories they hear to fill in the details in their mind. There is also a measurable effect storytelling has on our bodies. When we experience a story, our brains release cortisol (which increases our ability to pay attention) and oxytocin (which boosts our ability to feel emotion and empathy). It’s as though our ability to engage with stories is programmed into us.
2. Defining a story
But what exactly is a story? It’s important to know what a story is and what a story is not. A story is not simply well-organized information. “How many of you have ever felt the oxytocin flowing after looking at a [presentation] slide?” Hall quipped before going on to say that a story should be about a specific moment, where something meaningful happens. Stories should contain an emotional component along with information, and a story must always feature characters to care about, and something should be at stake for those characters.
3. Apply information to real-life situations
Strategic storytelling exists so we can communicate a message more effectively than simply relaying information. By wrapping your message inside a story with real-life scenarios your audience can relate to, it not only makes your story more memorable, but it also allows the audience to connect with you and the information you’re trying to communicate in a more meaningful way.
4. Don’t forget to tell your story
It might sound hard to believe, but one of the biggest storytelling mistakes people make is not telling their story at all. “We allude to the story,” Hall warned, “but we don’t actually tell it.” Don’t let this happen to you! Once you’ve figured out the story you want to tell, use the above tips and then share it with your audience. As Hall said, “it is not the magnitude of the stories you tell,” but rather “the decision to tell them, and to tell them well,” that matters.