Hone Your Skills

The Art of Storytelling

March 17, 2022
5 Min Read

Before the printing press and social media, knowledge, and information traveled through oral storytelling. These stories conveyed human experience, life lessons, and the histories of people and our voyages.

Stories are a natural part of how we think and communicate. Stories are more than a creative writing course; they are a tool for business people and public speaking professionals.

Read on for practical information and advice for boosting your communication and storytelling prowess.

Becoming an Effective Storyteller

As mentioned, storytelling is natural for humans, but great storytelling takes practice.

The chances are you already possess fundamental storytelling skills. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you can hook your audience and keep them engaged until your conclusion.

Here are a few skills worth sharpening:

Engaging Your Audience With Storytelling

If you were to sum up successful storytelling in a word, it would be engaging. You've won the battle if you engage your audience during a presentation or when participating in a meeting. The thing is, it's also the most challenging part of storytelling.

One way to engage your audience is to share a bit of your unique journey. Tell about your successes, failures, and struggles. Rely on sensory descriptions to recreate the characters and settings of your stories.

Furthermore, every good story involves conflict because it creates enough tension for the audience to wonder what happens next. You will want to use a variety of emotions. Read the room, and don't hesitate to get your audience excited, sentimental, and even sad or frustrated.

Impacting Listeners With Effective Communication

Storytelling is a form of communication, meaning it will only go as well as you communicate. Storytelling can enhance your communication skills, but no matter how many storytelling courses you take, you still need a solid base of communication skills.

As you work on your storytelling, revisit how you communicate in general. Do you speak confidently, clearly, and concisely during presentations? Do you get nervous or anxious right before you address the audience, or do you smoothly jump in and hook the people at once?

Learning to clearly present your arguments and ideas to persuade listeners will benefit you in many different settings throughout your career.

Using Empathy To Communicate Effectively

Human beings are wired for empathy. If you believe in your own story and point of view, your passion will be palpable. If your story is accessible and relatable, it’s easy for your audience to transpose their personal experience onto your talk, creating active and engaged listeners.

If you're able to put yourself in someone else's shoes, you can reach many more people. Empathy helps you connect with those around you, but it also shows you care and can think and feel outside of yourself.

Empathy is critical for leaders: it gives you an air of confidence and executive presence. We all are drawn to people who show interest in what we think and feel.

During your virtual and in-person meetings, make sure you actively listen to those speaking and pay attention to other listeners' nonverbal communication. Learning about the experiences, thoughts, and emotions of others will broaden your perspective and help you connect with your listeners on a deeper level.

How To Engage Your Audience While Telling a Story

OK, so you know how important it is to engage your audience through your stories. But how do you accomplish it?

Use Body Language

Body language is essential in storytelling because it paints a picture of the nonverbals occurring in the scene. Perhaps the most powerful nonverbal communication is eye contact. In many cases, eyes can tell a story of their own, so be sure to look your audience in the eye with the appropriate emotion during parts of your story.

You can use facial gestures and neck responses to express emotions, such as scrunching your face and moving your neck to one side to demonstrate the character’s confusion.

Making gestures with your hand, arm, and body can also go a long way in making your story more gripping. For example, you can fold your arms around your body while telling a disturbing part of your story and open your arms when you want to welcome the audience into a joyful moment.

Consider your posture as you tell stories. Acting out your characters' circumstances (e.g., sleeping, searching, walking, etc.) can engage your listeners more than simply using your words. Ideally, you will combine eye contact with other body gestures mentioned.

Utilize Audience Participation

If you really want to keep your audience engaged, encourage them to participate. Rather than speaking at your audience, try to speak with them. Even if the content of your story is interesting, you must take advantage of the fact that you are sharing a space with other people. Otherwise, your audience may as well be listening to a podcast or audiobook.

Regularly ask your listeners for feedback and input. Consider breaking in the middle of your story to ask if anyone has questions. If your listeners feel like they are in the story with you and your characters, they'll be more likely to stick with you to the end. Don't be afraid to make your story interactive through technology and activities!

Use Visual Aids To Enhance Your Story

Another way to be a better storyteller is to utilize visual aids. Chances are you or your team members have used visual aids in meetings, and they can prove just as effective when you are telling a story.

You can go the traditional route by sketching out your characters on a whiteboard or using an infographic to describe character development. You can even use presentation software or live web video to present your most critical points. Of course, a good prop can always enhance a story!

How To Tell Impactful Stories

Here’s how to be a master storyteller:

Engage Your Listeners’ Emotions

The best stories are those that get your audience emotionally invested. If you are meeting with coworkers that you already know, you are at an advantage because you likely have an idea of what kind of story and content can move them.

If you are presenting to people who you have never met before, like a Ted Talk, learn to read the room so that you can take your listeners on a roller coaster of emotions with you.

Make Your Stories Personal  

People love when a speaker is vulnerable and authentic. A good storyteller isn’t a polished drone; they are real-life individuals with strengths and weaknesses. Figure out how to make your stories personal.

Maybe you can tell about an embarrassing situation or throw some self-deprecating humor into the mix. Being relatable will help you engage listeners and make your story more memorable.

Add a Life Application to Your Stories

If you are telling a story in the workplace, it’s probably because you are trying to convince your audience to take action on a new strategy or get on board with something else the company is trying to do. This means that your stories will have an underlying idea or argument.

Show how your idea or argument has added value to your own life. Provide specific examples of how you have applied them to paint a picture in your listeners’ minds.

How To Use Empathy and Intuition in Storytelling

Lastly, exercising empathy and intuition will do wonders for your storytelling journey.

Here’s how to use storytelling to elicit emotional responses:

Understand Your Audience for Effective Communication

If you want to connect with your audience, you must understand why they are giving you their attention in the first place. Steve Jobs knew that he was addressing tech enthusiasts when he announced the iPhone in 2007. He crafted a compelling story for that specific audience — a story that was likely quite different from the one he told investors over conference calls.

Consider your audience as you gather ideas, draft your stories, and present them. Knowing your target audience will make you a more effective storyteller through each stage.

How To Avoid Boring the Audience

Many of the tips above will help you keep the audience engaged. But another way to combat boredom is to weave a few surprises into your story.

You never want your story to be too predictable. As you craft each story, work in a plot twist or two. It will make the story more compelling and keep your listeners on the edge of their seats.

Avoid Rambling and Filler Words

Even if you have a perfectly crafted story prepared for your meeting or presentation, it can run amok if you let nerves get in the way. Be mindful not to use too many filler words as you communicate with your listeners, and avoid rambling at all costs.

Many communicators find that recording themselves before a presentation can help them to analyze areas that need improvement. But for real-time assistance, professionals rely on AI like Poised to alert them to filler word use and other critical presentation matters like posture and camera angle.

Poised is there for any virtual conference, meeting, or presentation you have, providing the support you need whenever you need it.

The Power of Storytelling

You’ve been asked to give a presentation at work. Or, you plan to actively participate in your next virtual meeting. Whatever your situation, effective storytelling will help you engage the audience and give you an excellent platform for sharing your ideas and arguments.

Consider the tips above as you develop your storytelling abilities. If you need help with your verbal or nonverbal communication skills, look to software like Poised!

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