3 Keys To Being a Great Storyteller

November 1, 2014

12:00 pm

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to share my story as an entrepreneur at my alma mater, The University of San Diego. Excited about the opportunity, I took time to find trends in what made great storytellers. Researching over 30 amazing speakers, I started noticing patterns they all shared.

When encompassing these lessons in my speeches, I’ve noticed more interest among the audience. Learning these patterns has helped me improve not only my public speaking, but also my pitch to investors as well. Here are the takeaways I’ve gathered to being a great storyteller:

1.Humor is more powerful than you think

Almost every exceptional storyteller I researched used humor in his or her stories. The only time this wasn’t the case, was when the topic they were discussing was too serious to have any jokes. What’s interesting is how much a few jokes can change the entire mood of your audience. Generating laughter among a crowd not only raises their energy, but also makes them more attentive to you. To execute this, one of the best ways is to tell an embarrassing story about you. It can be when you were just a kid, or something you messed up on in the early stages of your company. To make the process seamless, make sure you carefully assess where it would be best to put a joke. If you’re going to end on a serious lesson or call to action, try moving your jokes to the beginning of your story.

2. Authenticity builds buy in

I’m always amazed at how loyal Tim Ferris’s following is. I’m a Ferris fan myself, and from studying him it’s obvious that he’s an exceptional storyteller. One of the major reasons Ferris has been able to achieve this is because of his authenticity. If you’ve ever seen him give interviews, you’ll notice his personality never really changes. He comes off as extremely real, which helps captivate his audience.

One of the ways he does this is by keeping his tone and word choice conversational. You’ll notice he swears and makes jokes all the time; acting like his listeners are his best friends. He also doesn’t try to use complicated words, or give off a domineering tone. Instead, he relates to his audience by speaking to them like he was sitting down with them at a coffee shop.

Another way to build authenticity in your storytelling is to share your mistakes with the audience. Not only does this help bring down your ego, but it also let’s your listeners better connect with you. When telling a story about yourself, make sure you point out the mistakes you made and what you learned from them. Your story will become much more interesting, and it will leave a powerful impact on your audience to know that you are vulnerable.

3. End with a hopeful message

The best stories end in a positive message. You want to craft your storytelling so that the crowd leaves motivated. To help with this, before coming up with your story, think about the vision you want to portray. When I spoke at my alma mater, I wanted to create the idea that great things can grow from humble beginnings. After I discovered my message, I crafted the beginning, middle, and end accordingly.

After studying the speakers on Stanford Ecorner, I noticed that the ones who stuck out ended with a hopeful message. While some presenters ended their presentation with the end of the story, the best ones did something else. They ended their story and then they reviewed the positive message they wanted the audience to walk away with. This gave their stories purpose, and helped the audience leave with concrete takeaways.

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AJ Agrawal is an entrepreneur, speaker, and writer. He is the CEO and Co-Founder at Alumnify Inc.

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