At my last job, I was a senior assistant at a finance company. The boss, Mr. Gould, was tall, kinda short. Lightish-dark hair. I remember he had this little dog he would bring into the office named Horton. Or was it Morton? Anyway, I’m sorry, what was the question?
If you’ve made it past this nonsensical anecdote, bravo! A well-told story can leave an impression on your audience and create personal investment. But a poorly-told story, like the one above, incites confusion and boredom. Bestselling author Kindra Hall believes good storytellers are able to build a connection and differentiate themselves from the competition.
“Given a choice between listening to statistics or facts or listening to a story, people will always choose a story. And stories stick with them longer.” -Kindra Hall
Whether you’re interviewing for a new job or becoming a leader in your field, the ability to be a good storyteller is crucial to succeeding in the business world. If you’re looking to enhance your oratory skills with a sense of eloquence and excitement, follow these storytelling cues.
Have a point
A good story leaves an imprint because it has a purpose. No matter how elegant you tell your tale, no one will be interested if the story doesn’t have meaning. The time you found the last bag of oyster crackers at Aldi won’t hold up next to the Iliad.
Skillshare Blog believes there should be a payoff for the listener, not just the storyteller. Even if it isn’t known to the audience until the end of the tale, make sure there is a central message somewhere in your story.
Cut the bloat
Think of a time someone bored you with a story you weren’t interested in. Chances are, the story droned on, and on, and on. One of the classic blunders used by less-proficient storytellers is bogging the story down with too many unnecessary details. In the example story at the top of this article, my story about a previous job focused far too much energy on the boss’ appearance and little details about his life.
Forbes Lisa Christen reminds us of the classic sad short story “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” In just six words, we have a full story. Let every individual word drive the story forward while trusting the audience to be able to fill in the blanks. Your audience is smart but uninformed; they’ll be able to understand your meanings.
While some background information is required, keep it to the necessary bits only, reminds Anett Grant of Fast Company.
“[S]et the scene for your audience in the most concise way possible, telling them only what they need to know to comprehend your key takeaway.” -Anett Grant
Hit emotional beats
If your chronicle is going to stay in the audiences’ mind, it needs to be more than hard facts. The reason you tell a story is to foster a connection, and simply providing the who/what/where/when doesn’t cut it.
Kindra Hall believes a successful story has four components: an identifiable character, authentic emotion, a moment, and specific (relevant!) details. This character (often you!) should experience real emotions and have a defining moment, ie the purpose of the story.
Think in terms of an interviewer asking you a challenge you’ve overcome in the workplace. You’ll leave a long-lasting impression if the story is personal and authentic. Don’t just hit the bullet points; really try to highlight the conflict and how you overcame it. Skillshare Blog points out that the conflict is what keeps an audience engaged.
“An easy and linear path to the finish line isn’t going to keep your audience engaged. Instead, you want your characters to face obstacles—and a decent amount of drama—as they journey on their path.”- Skillshare Blog
You’ll be much more likely to get a follow-up call if your story resonates with the hiring managers.
Keep it simple
Tying back to the idea your story should have a point, once you’ve made that point it’s okay to end the story. Anett Grant reminds us that humans have a short attention span; they say to keep the story like a shot clock in basketball. Get your points across and move on. There is no faster way to lose your audience than to ramble on and have them zone out and forget the point you were making.
While storytelling may not be the same as public speaking, a fear of many, many of the principles remain the same. Practice your delivery at home while following the above advice. Repetition leads to comfort and confidence. Whether your audience is one person or one hundred, you’ll be able to self-scout and recognize what is and isn’t working.
Skillshare Blog further recommends looking to those who have mastered the art of storytelling to improve. Think of your favorite storytellers and read or listen to their tales. Ask yourself why the story works and how you can adapt those techniques yourself.
Storytelling is a vital skill to master for your professional career. As a job seeker, it will allow you to stick in the hiring manager’s mind after the interview, leading to more follow-ups. As a leader, you’ll find yourself connecting with your team and inspiring them to new heights. It can allow you to resonate with customers, leading to more sales and satisfied clients. Some people are natural storytellers, but with a little effort, anyone can become a masterful storyteller.
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