Storytelling is one of the five key areas you need to improve on to become a fun, charismatic, or even persuasive person. In this definitive guide, you will have a chance to learn about everything you need to know to start telling great stories – skillfully, effortlessly, and consistently.
Nothing resonates better with people than relatable storytelling. If you master the art of using your words in a way that captivates your listeners and awakens their imagination, you will see great improvements in all areas of your life.
This article will cover vital information like:
- understanding what storytelling is in the first place;
- the importance of storytelling;
- elements of a great story;
- how to use your stories to be more persuasive;
- tons of tips and tricks to help you improve.
Let’s get started right away.
What is storytelling?
Our life is a book that consists of tens of thousands of unique stories, good and bad, happy and sad, each with a different and lifelong moral.
At the end of the day, we are all a product of stories. We don’t have to wait to go through a certain experience to know about something.
We learn through the stories of people we know.
The fact is – every person you meet has a story to tell.
Some of us just don’t know how to do it properly.
The basic difference between any influential and impactful storyteller and your average person is the approach to storytelling that establishes a strong connection between the storyteller and the audience.
That’s all there is to it.
So, what is storytelling?
Storytelling is an interactive process in which we use verbal and non-verbal language to communicate our ideas to our audience. The ultimate goal of telling a story is to relate, connect, and leave a lasting impression on our listeners.
Why should you master the art of storytelling?
We are sure that our explanation of the idea behind telling stories sounds like something easier said than done.
So why even bother?
Every individual has stories inside them, not just our grandpas and grandmas. The case is just that most human beings learn the skill in the later stages of their life.
Nonetheless, the sooner you learn how to convey your story compellingly, the better it is for you as you need the skill in almost every phase of your life. As a student, an employee, a parent, a colleague, a business person, a friend, or a spouse, storytelling will take you places, and you will never regret learning the skill.
The medium you use might vary from written to verbal and drawing. Still, your story should always leave a long-lasting impact on your target audience. It should always leave your audience questioning, admiring, and rethinking.
Some of the goals we may wish to achieve by mastering this skill could be:
- connecting with people,
- building meaningful relationships,
- sending your thoughts into the world,
- influencing the lives of other people.
Such a repertoire of social skills can help you immensely lead a happier, more fulfilled life and achieve your personal and business-related goals.
Now that we have your attention:
- Are you wondering how to make your story impactful?
- How to establish a connection between you and your audience?
- How to seek attention and retain it by telling your story?
- Do you, too, wish to become a master of storytelling?
Luckily, you are in the right place. Keep on reading.
What makes a good story?
The first step you need to take is to understand what a good story is.
What’s interesting here is that you already know the answer to this question. You just never thought about it consciously.
#1 – A good story is memorable.
Irrespective of which type your audience is, if it feels that there is a strong connection between the story and them, they will remember it for the rest of their lives.
Your main purpose should be to pull in your audience and keep them engaged.
You can use your creativity in a manner that makes your point clear and obvious but in a way that is unique and memorable.
Great stories with important messages stick with us for a long time.
However, that doesn’t mean it has to be doom and gloom.
A funny story that made us laugh until our stomach hurt also stays in our hearts and minds long after hearing it.
The key to telling a memorable story is stirring up emotions – good and bad.
#2 – A good story is universal and relatable.
It is common to share things that move us to the people in our close social circle.
Because of this, we may find it rather surprising that some of the stories we have to tell could connect with millions of people around the globe.
Using similar experiences, emotions, and relatable messages as a trigger in your story makes your message dozens of times more powerful.
People will remember it, talk about it, and some may even criticize it. However, that is how you know that they heard your story, and it connected with them.
#3 – A good story is entertaining and captivating.
If your listeners don’t fully engage with what you have to say and listen intently, then it is time to change something about your approach.
Your audience should be interested in what you have to say from the moment you start telling the story. There are a lot of factors that go into play here. Some of them are:
- the way you talk (confidence, intonation, posture, etc.)
- the content of your story
- the structure (how well do you transition from one part to the other)
- how much your audience relates to what you have to say
- and so much more.
A great way to understand how great storytellers engage their listeners is to listen to high-quality podcasts and learn from the hosts.
#4 – A good story persuades people to act.
By mastering the skill of storytelling, you do not just become a memorable storyteller but an overall change maker.
You hold the authority to alter minds and shift action in both negative and positive directions, depending upon your storytelling aims.
Storytelling & Persuasion in Marketing
Storytelling can be an extremely powerful tool for brands trying to connect with their potential buyers or clients and influence them.
Persuasion is the centerpiece of business activity.
Let’s say that you wish people to purchase a specific item from your e-commerce brand. You build a story revolving around that particular item and make it so appealing that the audience feels like they have no other option than to buy your product!
Some of the approaches brands use to influence their buyers are:
- FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) – their marketing campaigns develop the feeling that you might miss out or make a huge mistake if you don’t purchase their product or service. Something brands might say here is: ‘Your competitors don’t know about this approach yet! Make sure that you are always one step ahead.’ Notice how that makes you want to take action?
- They target your emotions, which might be anything from happiness to anger and fear (like the point above). Your listeners’ emotions should always play a huge role in your approach to storytelling.
- They focus on the pain points to make you focus on what their product or service solves. The more aware you are of your problems, the stronger your desire to get rid of them will be.
#5 – A good story is useful and informative.
Not all stories need to have an educational purpose.
However, your listeners or readers must get something out of it – a laugh, a useful piece of information or advice, or an important message.
The bottom line is – your story must be useful for your audience. Otherwise, they won’t bother listening to it.
Would you like to waste your time on a long monologue with no clear message, neither educational nor funny, and you are not interested in the topic?
Neither would anyone else. It is vital to understand that a good story is useful above everything else, even if its only purpose is to bring a quick smile to someone’s face.
Now that you understand what characterizes great stories, let’s take a look at how you can start telling them consistently.
What are the components of storytelling?
To understand the tips and tricks of great storytelling, you will need to understand the formulating factors or components on which every storyteller operates.
Regardless of the intent behind your story, you should base it upon the following three factors:
Component #1 – The Content
The type of content your story consists of should always come first. It can range from basic, simple-to-understand to complex to decode, lighthearted to educational, funny to serious, and anything in between.
The content includes:
- the message of your story: the main idea that made you want to tell it in the first place;
- the characters: the key elements to making your story relatable and captivating;
- the structure: how your introduction, conclusion, and everything in between tie together
How to make the content of your story great?
All you have to do is revise the previous section of this post, and you will have a great understanding of the content quality.
Here is a set of questions that can serve as a quick assessment tool to whether your story’s content is good or not:
- Will my listeners want to retell the story to others once they hear it?
- Will they remember it for a long time?
- Is my story relatable?
- Does it have what it takes to connect with my audience on an emotional level?
- What kind of emotions does it trigger?
- Is it entertaining? Would I want to listen to my story if I had never heard it before?
- Is it inspirational? Does it encourage people to take action?
- Does it bring value to the listeners? Is it useful?
- Is my story truly funny?
It is important to remember that your story should never tick all of the boxes on this checklist. Moreover, rare are the stories that can do such a thing.
The idea is to develop a habit of testing your story against these criteria to understand if your listeners or your social circle will receive it well.
Component #2 – Time Range of Communication
The second factor is the time scale that includes the time you have to tell the story.
Depending upon the work’s nature, the time frame might vary. For instance, the TED speakers have a maximum of eighteen minutes to speak. You are well-aware of how proficiently these speakers utilize their time and convince their listeners.
However, most of the time, you will be telling stories to your friends. There is a difficult question that can arise here.
How long should my story be?
There is no universal answer here. Your story should be as long or as short as it needs to be.
That might sound like a vague answer, but it isn’t.
Never talk longer than you need to to get your point across, and never shorten your story unless you are interrupted by something important.
Your story should last as long as it takes you to:
- present your main idea,
- unravel its supporting elements,
- connect with your listeners,
- and wrap it up with a successful conclusion.
If you take any longer than that, you will bore your audience. If you shorten it before you manage to hit all the checkpoints successfully, your story won’t be successful.
Find the balance, and you will hit the jackpot. The only way to develop the feeling for this element is through practice and repetition.
Component #3 – Delivery Method
The third and last component is the delivery method that you will be using for storytelling.
There are multiple modes to tell a story:
- creative presentation,
- video animation,
- an eye-catching picture,
- an appealing blog post,
- a diagram,
- a speech,
- a combination of some elements above,
- or any other way you can think of that works.
The key to utilizing all these components is identifying what you are good at, i.e., your strengths. Some of us are great at visually expressing our ideas, and others are great at drawing.
Use whatever medium works for you and your storytelling approach, even if you are just talking with your friends in a bar. If drawing on a napkin or doing a little dance will help you get your point across – by all means, do it!
How to structure your story?
Most people who have exciting stories to tell but somehow struggle to do so do not understand that their problem lies in how they structure their stories.
The structure of your story serves as an important basis. It is the building block for storytelling. The firmer, more comprehensive, and planned it is, the taller your building will be.
It is totally on you as the storyteller to drive your listeners’ emotions by presenting them with a captivating narrative that will keep them on the edge of their seats. Your story should make them feel all the ups and downs as if they were the main actors in it themselves.
How do you do that?
You will have to go through certain steps to:
- ease your listeners into the story, sparking interest;
- build a meaningful basis for your story, giving them a reason to listen;
- get your audience to truly feel your story by positioning them in it;
- allow them to engage and become a part of the narrative;
- finally, bring your story to an impactful conclusion.
There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.
We have chosen this quote for a reason. It talks about the idea of universal storytelling structures that repeat themselves in every story you have ever heard.
Does this mean that you should base every little anecdote solely on these templates?
Of course not. The frameworks exist because we have tested them through centuries, and they undoubtedly work. However, the beauty of storytelling is our freedom to think outside of the box and make each story unique.
But enough babbling. What are these blueprints for successful stories that we so bravely talk about?
There are many story structures that writers use when they begin outlining their work, such as:
- the Freytag’s pyramid,
- the seven-point structure by Dan Wells,
- the hero’s journey,
- and many more.
But the chances are – you are here to learn how to tell a wide variety of stories, not write a novel.
For that very reason, our team has put together a unique but simple story structure we like to call The Wave Method.
What on Earth is that?
It is a practical guideline you can use to tell your friends great stories or give amazing public speeches. We have developed it by analyzing how great storytellers do what they do and organized the principles we learned in a simple framework.
Let’s see how it works.
The Wave Method
First of all, why is it called The Wave?
This approach to storytelling involves embracing the natural flow of the story and your listeners’ attention.
What do these two have in common?
They both have their ups and downs!
Your story has exciting moments and elements of transition. Likewise, the attention of your audience is not always there. They may check their phones, take a sip of water, or get lost in their own thoughts for a few seconds.
You can use this to your advantage by combining the two. All you have to do is use the transitioning moments of your story to let your listeners step into it. Use the moments right before an important plot point or your favorite part of the story to allow your audience to talk.
But wait – doesn’t that ruin the flow?
No! The opposite is true, actually. Instead of transitioning from one part to the other as quickly as possible, take your time to ask questions that will invite people to pitch in. Let them express their interest and connect with the story on a deeper level before moving on.
You can go as far as asking a certain member of the group a question directly if one part of your story particularly relates to them.
This way, you will have their full attention in the most important moments. This slight shift in your approach to storytelling will make a world of difference as soon as you start implementing it.
Now, it is time to explain how the structure looks. Here is an infographic that makes it very clear where it got its name from:
As you can see, there are seven key elements:
- Introduction – you introduce your listeners to the story. They understand what it is about and how it starts.
- Catalyst – the first exciting piece of information that sparks interest. It could be anything from the first unexpected event to an intriguing question.
- Bridge #1 – the moment before you reach the midpoint of your story, pause by asking your audience a quick question that invites their full attention for what is about to follow. Let them comment on the story so far. Crack a joke. Transition into the next phase with their ears wide open.
- Main Point – the center of your story. It is the main thing you wanted to talk about, and your audience is listening intently.
- Bridge #2 – another transition. Once again, it allows the people listening to pitch in and get themselves involved in the story even more. You catch your breath, and they are ready for an impressive conclusion.
- Conclusion – bring your point home. Whether it is a plot twist or your opinion on a topic, this point in your story is the most impactful one. You have set the stage. Now go for the grand finale.
- Flow – the point where the conversation continues, and everyone has your story in their hearts and minds.
The idea behind The Wave is to embrace the beauty of storytelling instead of trying to put it in rigid blueprints.
Your story should inspire and emotionally touch people. More than anything else, it should invite people to share their views on it and stories of their own. That is why the final phase is called flow and why it is so important.
You are now almost entirely equipped to tell stories people will remember for life. However, there is one little thing left:
How do you actually tell them?
How to tell a great story?
There is no set pattern of exact rules that can make your storytelling great, but you need to take care of a few primary points. This section comprises some of the best strategies that will help you become a storyteller everyone looks up to.
#1 – Discover your purpose.
The first step to becoming a great storyteller is to know what your purpose behind storytelling is.
There can be multiple reasons why you could want to formulate a story and present it to people. For instance, it could be as a part of a branding strategy or to make your friends laugh in a bar.
Whatever the reason is, to become skillful at storytelling, you need to have a clear, concise, and evident purpose behind each of your stories.
#2 – Set your goal.
This tip is a continuation of the previous one.
Whenever you plan to tell a story, you should have a specific target you wish to achieve by the end of it. You need to be aware of what outcomes you want from telling the story.
Only with your goal and drive in mind will you know what to focus on once you start talking.
The first and most obvious one should be getting people to listen to you before you start. If you are struggling with that, here is some reading material:
#3 – Know your target audience.
Being mindful of your audience at all times is a point that most storytellers miss out on. That is why they are never quite able to influence their listeners positively, despite having an amazing story to tell.
What is the simplest way to understand your audience?
Ask yourself (and them) questions about them:
- Who is your audience?
- What do they like to hear about?
- What does your audience need to know?
- What makes them laugh?
- Which parts of your story are they familiar with?
- What type of language should you use with them?
Once you understand who you are talking to, you will better understand how to talk.
#4 – Start strong.
A strong start will show your audience that your story is a ride that they would love to be part of for many reasons.
Your goal should be an attention-grabbing opening, and beginning with previous examples or familiar experiences does the job perfectly. To engage the audience and keep them on your story, show them how it relates to them.
However, some of you may struggle to find a perfect opportunity to start telling a story in the first place. As it turns out, joining conversations is a skill, and you can learn it!
#5 – Develop your main points.
The chances are – your story is going to have one or two main points.
Preferably start with one of them and gradually end it in a manner that supports the points you introduced into the opening phase.
The best way to do this is to stay on the main course. Develop the primary idea so that your audience hears the message loud and clear. You want to avoid dodging around or diverting your audience to something less important.
#6 – Talk about the hard stuff.
Human beings are emotional creatures, and we go through thousands of emotions that vary from one moment to another.
As a storyteller, you should know how to invite emotions. We all have difficult or even painful stories that we can connect to and ponder upon, although we try to avoid them most of the time.
However, when the time is right (and we cannot stress this enough), nothing connects with people as strongly as talking about common difficulties and struggles in life.
#7 – Speak from your perspective.
An excellent technique to master storytelling is to connect the story to yourself and talk from your personal experiences.
Undoubtedly, most of us have a strong understanding of our own experiences and stories. However, we rarely think about how others feel in their lives and what they go through every day.
The story that will reveal chunks about your life will be more interesting and lively because you will become relatable. Hence, try to make the story personal and add some examples from your life to connect with your listeners faster.
#8 – Visualize your story.
Another storytelling strategy is to visualize what you wish to communicate to the audience.
As we talked about already, the medium of your story might vary. Still, the visualization of your thoughts, experiences, and brain processing will help you when you start conveying the story.
Usually, storytellers write or map their outline on a piece of paper to remember the structure and not miss out on something important, especially when giving a speech.
Here is a useful article that can help you with that:
The bonus is that your audience understands what you have to say better, and they engage more if you do this.
#9 – Surprise your audience.
If you are a great storyteller, then you will rarely let your audience predict the story correctly.
Commonly, when a story goes in a certain direction, the audience begins predicting what will come next. Our brains like to work overtime, especially when we are listening to an interesting story.
Your objective should be to surprise and challenge their predictions now and then by adding numerous plot twists. This tip is very beneficial in retaining your audience’s attention, and it helps make your story unique and memorable.
#10 – Step out of your comfort zone.
The most difficult task for you in your journey will be pushing and exceeding your boundaries.
You will have to challenge your creativity, your imagination, and your words in a manner that will set you apart from the pack and make you a great storyteller.
The most uncomfortable thing for people who are not used to telling stories and being in the center of attention is speaking properly. Overcoming the fear of speaking can be quite a challenge.
Luckily, we have written a guide that you will find useful:
Whatever you struggle with the most, practice is the best way to overcome it. Over time, you will develop your signature style, and people will love you for it!
#11 – Call to action.
As mentioned previously, you should have a clear objective behind your stories. It should be convincing enough to compel the audience to take action based on what you told them.
It can be inspiring, terrifying, exciting, motivating, and anything in between and beyond. Once again, we highlight how important it is to connect with your listeners emotionally.
When you do this part successfully, they will be motivated to take action:
- If you told an exciting travel story, they should want to go to that place right away and experience everything themselves.
- Suppose you held a speech about climate change. In that case, your story should inspire your listeners to start contributing to a greener planet right away.
You understand the pattern. The stronger your story is, the more it will invite people to take action.
It’s your turn.
We hope that our detailed guide has helped you to understand the art of storytelling better. You will probably need to read it a few more times to absorb all the information fully.
After that, it is up to you to start practicing and getting better at it in real life.
Now, we would like to hear from you.
Which section of our guide did you find the most useful?
Let us know by leaving a comment below right away!