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How to Tell Better Stories

Learn how to connect better with people—and make your point effectively too. 

By
Lisa B. Marshall
November 18, 2010
Episode #112

A few days ago at the dinner table, my daughter, Ariana, asked,

“Mommy can I help you write an episode of your show?”.

I almost said no, but then I thought, why not? It’ll be fun and a challenge.  

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How to Develop a Story

So, the first step was to choose our theme. So I asked the girls, “What would you like the theme to be? When I saw the confused look on their faces, I realized I needed to remind them what “theme” meant. “Remember your birthday had an under-the-sea theme and all the activities and decorations had to do with the sea? “Oh, right mommy. But what do you usually write about?" I said, “I write about communication.” Ariana, responded without any hesitation by saying, “Then I’d like our theme to be love.”

It took me a second to make the connection, but when I did, I was both somewhat surprised and happy with her choice. You see for Ariana, communication and love are very closely related. She even refers to our mother-daughter chats as “comfort talks,” as in,” Mommy, can I cuddle up with you? I need a comfort talk.”

So we had our theme: communication equals love. By the way, I find it interesting that kids seem to intuitively understand abstract concepts and make connections quickly. (Wouldn’t it be great if we all were able to instantly make a connection between good communication and love?)

Make Your Point Stick with an Example

Anyway, you might remember that I’ve previously mentioned that if you want to make your point stick, it helps to follow the PEP model. Ok, pop quiz…do you remember what PEP stands for? Right! Point evidence point, which means you’ll need to make your point, back it up with evidence (which is often an example), and then reiterate your point.

For such an important topic as communication equals love, there was no doubt, we needed a story as our evidence. Stories are richer, deeper, and have more emotional impact than other forms of support.

How to Tell Better Stories

When we share our memorable moments, when we share our stories, it allows us to connect in a deeper richer way.

So I asked the girls, when in the recent past do you remember feeling loved? Can you think of a memorable moment? And in unison, they both said Halloween. I chose the words “memorable moment” on purpose because that’s the way their school has been teaching them about storytelling. Actually, it’s a great way to teach story development.

The idea is to think back to memorable moments that are examples of your theme and then choose the best one for the particular audience. Once you’ve selected a specific moment, you then develop the story by stretching it. My kids’ teachers suggest choosing a short period of time—five or ten minutes—as their moment. But really, especially for adults, memorable moments can be longer--an hour, a day, or even a year because in the context of lifetime, a year could be considered just a moment in time.

Tell Better Stories by Vividly Describing Details

So how exactly do you stretch a moment into a story? You do so by vividly describing all the details. First think about where the moment took place. Use that to set the scene. Then think about the actions. What happened? Then what happened? Imagine the moment again in your mind. Choose descriptive words to paint a detailed picture in the mind of your listener. Try to remember the exact dialog. What did you say? What did the others say? What were you thinking? What were you feeling? Your goal is to engage the eyes, the minds, and the hearts of your audience, allowing them to experience and relate to your memorable moment.  

Tell Your Story To One Other Person

The next step is to verbally share your story with someone else. By telling your story, you’ll get better at sharing the story concisely without getting off track. And based on any questions you get, you’ll know what to add or cut from the story.

So I asked Daniela to share with me her Halloween memorable moment. Here’s what she said:

Mommy, I really liked trick or treating with Kaaviya. Especially when the boy with no costume said, Boohaaahaaaaahaaa! He really scared me. 

But the best part was when we came home.

First we got to eat the yummy chocolate birthday cake that we made for you and then we got to cuddle under the fuzzy brown blanket with you while Daddy told us his special scary Halloween Coco Bollo story.

Mommy, that made us feel warm on the outside and the inside.

When I asked her, “What was your favorite part of Daddy’s story,” she said,

“The best part was that we all shared it together.”

I smiled and thought to myself, storytelling does equal love. When we share our memorable moments, when we share our stories, it allows us to connect in a deeper richer way. And that can help us not just connect, but also get our points across.

I told you this story about storytelling with the hope that you will now feel more comfortable sharing your own stories. People tell me all the time that they want to include stories, but don’t know how. I’m hoping now you have a basic process that you can follow. (I’m also hoping that someone will feel love because you shared your story with them!)

This is, The Public Speaker, Lisa B. Marshall, passionate about communication your success is my business.

As always, I also invite you to join my newsletter or my professional network on LinkedIn (and Twitter).

Interested in co-writing an episode with me? Send me a sample of your writing.

If you have a question, send email to publicspeaker@quickanddirtytips.com. For information about keynote speeches or workshops, visit lisabmarshall.com.

Story image courtesy of Shutterstock

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