10 Quick Storytelling Tips
You have been asked to share from your vast experience and knowledge and would like to make the reader experience as engaging and as interesting as possible. How about considering storytelling? Here are a few tips:
1. Know your audience. The story needs to be adapted depending on who you tell it to... No matter who you are – IT specialists, lawyers and alternative healers – whoever – professionals will be engaged if you talk directly to their interests and experiences. I was once at a motivational speech, wherein the speaker told sport analogy after sport analogy to a crowd of hackers and cryptographers. For the vast majority of the audience, the references were boring and irrelevant at best and indecipherable at worst. (I speak in generalisations of course...)
2. Make your story personal. That doesn't mean you should include intimate details and various degrees of TMI: it means that you should show a human side. Show how you interacted with the challenges you are describing. For instance, it may be uniquely interesting to veterinarians if you personally have never had a pet in your life.
3. Stories have beginnings, middles and ends. These don't need to be of equal length and weight, but you need an introduction, an expansion on the theme and a summary. Try to imagine that these are three separate drinking glasses. What will you pour into each one? How full will you make it? Make sure that after drinking the cups, the reader is fully satiated.
4. Have focus. Stories can have multiple characters or just one. Figure out whether your message is about the characters or the thing that is happening to them/him/her. Once you know the answer to this, make it the focus of your story.
5. Invoking a reaction – the light bulb moment. Stories don't need to take you on a rollercoaster, nor do they need to reveal an epiphany or eureka moment. However, they do need to invoke a reaction of sorts: a smile, a nod, a consent, a dissent. Anything is acceptable – and within an audience the reaction will vary. The light bulb moment doesn't need to be a hot, burning, fluorescent moment – it can be a sudden flash of acknowledgement, but the audience does need to undergo a transformation of sorts.
6. Consider your branding. No matter what you share or who you share it with, the audience is going to associate your words with who you are and what you represent. When you are telling your story, consider the impact of your words and what the audience will take away from their impressions. Will they find you serious, provocative, humorous, academic? Is this the impression that you were hoping to leave?
7. Storytelling is about engaging with your reader. Consider means to draw them in. Some ideas might be: ask rhetorical questions, use humor or outrage, refer directly to the reader, or (as said previously–) make your storytelling relevant to the audience and what interests them
8. Tell your story out-loud. Preferably to an audience. Stories began as an oral tradition and there is something innately beneficial about telling. In the act of vocalising, you capture the emotion, the voice and the flow. Perhaps some of these need to be adjusted. Perhaps you will discover that too much was said. Or too little. Perhaps you will discover that you have potential to share your stories and experience in other ways. Podcast anyone?
9. Distance yourself from your story for more than a day. This is a common trick for most writers. We get engrossed, obsessed and hung up on doing things in a particular way. Distance enables us to come back to our story with a fresh pair of eyes and new ideas. It is tempting – especially after investing time and energy – to continue to do exactly what you have been doing up until now, but stories are organic and need to grow freely. Give them space and see what takes root and what doesn't. Cultivate and nurture accordingly.
10. Write the story that you want to read. There is nothing like authenticity. You can feel it. It emanates, takes over and leave a shiny glow over what you do. If you can write the story that you would genuinely like to read, your audience will pick this up immediately and whether or not your writing has a personal appeal to them, they will be able to appreciate your effort, your time and you.