This week, January 26th – 2nd February 2019, is National Storytelling Week. It was created by the Society for Storytelling in 2000 to increase awareness of the art, practice and value of oral storytelling. You might associate telling stories with memories of childhood. But being able to tell a story is a key skill for today’s leaders.
Why use stories?
Effective leaders inspire and motivate those around them to give their best. They communicate clearly and build positive working relationships. These brilliant leaders create workplaces in which everyone can flourish, thrive and deliver to their potential. Environments in which people love to work.
Stories allow leaders to build empathy with their team, as well as peers and other stakeholders. Listening to stories has a physical impact, as well as an emotional benefit. Research by Paul J. Zak, Ph.D., director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, showed that listening to stories increases levels of the bonding hormone oxytocin. There’s a reason why parents read their children stories each night. Sharing a story promotes positive, productive relationships.
How do I craft a great story?
What makes writers like J. K. Rowling able to pen bestseller after bestseller? It’s no coincidence. A great story contains several key elements:
- Theme: A red thread running through the story which leads to a singular goal
- Punchline: An ending with a truth that deepens understanding
- Characters: Well-drawn characters with an inner motive that drives all their choices
- Wonder: Great stories infuse wonder which is honest, and cannot be artificially invoked
- Change: As with life, if a story goes static it dies
- Drama: Compelling narrative builds anticipation which is mingled with uncertainty
- 2+2: By making the audience put things together, the storyteller holds their attention
A great story deserves to be delivered with impact
To be a great storyteller, vary your rhythm and volume when speaking. This holds the attention of your audience and keeps them engaged. Use rhetorical techniques such as pausing, repetition, rhetorical questions or dramatic contrasts. These increase interest which helps you connect with your audience at a deeper level to inspire them.
“Storytelling gets inside the minds of the individuals who collectively make up the
Stephen Denning, The Springboard, 2001.
To tell stories to inspire others, you also need to be clear on what your personal story is. Would you say you have a job, a career or a calling? Are you trying to make a difference at work? If so, in what way? Being aware of your own narrative enables you to communicate clearly who you are and what you stand for.
Storytelling is not just an ancient art form. it’s also an effective modern communication technique.
Here are our 7 top tips:
- Set the scene. Give enough detail so that your audience can clearly imagine what’s going on.
- Make clear what the problem or issue was. What went wrong? How? Why?
- Describe the sequence of events. What actually happened, to whom, and when?
- Explain how everything was resolved in the end.
- Reflect on lessons learned. What’s the clear take-away?
- Vary your rhythm and volume throughout the story to maintain interest.
- Use rhetorical techniques to keep your audience’s attention.