The Storyteller: 3 Pillars To Build Your Foundation

From the early ages, stories like The Odyssey (Homer, 8th Century BC) or Hamlet (William Shakespeare, 1603) have shaped the world we live in. Stories have the power to inspire, motivate and move audiences.  But what is it that makes a story powerful and memorable? What makes it deep enough to connect with people?

As a presenter, developing and sharing powerful stories is key to connecting with and inspiring audiences, both in a professional and personal environment. 

We tell stories every day. For some, this art might come easily, whilst for others, it requires more work.  That said, I will share three pillars that I consider fundamental in the building and delivery of memorable stories.

  1. Building the story

“Once upon a time…” is the beginning of countless stories throughout the ages.  This simple phrase introduces the first fundamental principle in the art of storytelling: that every good story should have a beginning, a middle and an end.

The beginning of a story often sets the scene by providing contextualized elements (e.g. Location, time, characters). Many great stories have their climax in the middle, after a build-up of intensity and suspense, which is the key to keeping an audience involved. This build-up often includes some kind of conflict or situation which creates tension. 

Finally, the ending. Every story you tell in a presentation should have a “take away”, i.e. a key element that the audience will remember, especially if this is positive. 

Every story should be specific (i.e. focused and specific to the audience) as well as relevant.  Narrowing the topic will help onboard your audience and make sure they follow you.

Sometimes, the stories with the biggest impact are those which are personal to you and/or your audience. Showing vulnerability through stories we have experienced personally helps build trust and engage emotionally.

  1. Engaging through the story

In my previous article “The Powerful Storyteller – 10 Tips To Help You Enjoy Being A Presenter,” we covered some of the basics of connecting with audiences (e.g. Eye contact, owning the space or visual cues).  In addition, I am also a strong believer in the power of involving the senses to immerse an audience in your story.

Leveraging our senses to accompany a story can be powerful. In many presentations, visual cues such as pictures can support a message when used appropriately… but what about the other senses?

One way of involving the senses is through figures of speech and analogies. Here are a few examples:

  • Hearing: “We could hear her heart racing like boom-boom, boom-boom, boom-boom”. 
  • Smell:  “When entering the village, the smell of fresh bread suddenly took me back to my childhood”.
  • Touch:  “His skin felt rough, like the bark of a tree”.

When used appropriately, these cues help immerse people in your story and bring the characters to life.

  1. Practicing the story

Everybody loves a good story, so you’ll find countless opportunities to build and share stories with people. Seize those opportunities, as they will help you learn and enable you to adapt your stories to make an even greater impact.

If you’re not particularly inspired by a story at work, think about personal moments where you felt excitement, love or sadness. Leverage the principles we have discussed to build and share those with your audience. Observe people’s reactions and learn from the elements that help you connect best.

We all have stories that have stuck with us throughout the years, both in a personal and professional capacity.  I have shared some of the elements I consider fundamental in the building and sharing of stories.

Please share your thoughts on the process. Hearing about your experiences and stories can bring a lot of value to the community and can help others in their endeavour to becoming stronger storytellers.

And remember: get out there, practice and enjoy the process

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