Everyday Storytelling

Add interest and excitement to your messages with compelling stories.

Lisa B. Marshall
6-minute read

The Details

Finally, it’s the juicy details that engage listeners and bring your stories to life. Of course, the details need to be relevant. You also need to balance the amount of detail with the time you have.

Everyday stories tend to be short, so choose specific, descriptive verbs and adjectives. For example, saying “She bounded across the room giggly with delight” instead of, “She went across the room,” gives your listeners much more insight into the character. And be sure to only include details that directly impact your overall story. Otherwise you’ll leave your audience wondering why you bothered telling them that detail. To hear how details significantly enhance a story, listen to examples from master storytellers.

So, today’s quick and dirty tip is to strongly encourage you to enhance your messages with stories. Always start by briefly establishing a setting. Then introduce the characters through dialogue. Finally, describe the specific details of the action and decisions of the characters using descriptive verbs and adjectives.

Phil, when it comes to presentations, I think there are two reasons why people communicate using a boring list of facts, instead of using compelling stories: either they don’t understand just how powerful and important stories are, or they’ve never been taught the fundamental building blocks of a story. So it’s up to each of you to share this episode with all the boring storytellers that you know!

P.S. Be sure to check out all the bonus resources this week including a link to a Scientific American article on storytelling, videos of John Truby talking about the anatomy of a good story, videos of Ira Glass talking about storytelling in broadcasting, an example of a traditional and a modern day master storyteller, and finally a link to my favorite podcast, The Moth, which always has great stories that I learn from all the time.

Your Help

If you’d like to support the show, please consider encouraging your friends and colleagues to listen to the show by subscribing for free on iTunes. And if you like the show, please write a review while you're there.

Finally, I’d like to invite you to join my professional networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter).  I love being able to connect with my listeners and hear your stories. Thanks again for your support, I sincerely appreciate it.

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

References & Links

Escalas, Jennifer Edson (2007). Narrative versus Analytical Self-Referencing and Persuasion. Journal of Consumer Research, 34, n. 4, 421-429

Green, M.C. (2004). Transportation into narrative worlds: The role of prior knowledge and perceived realism. Discourse Processes, 38, 247-266

The Secrets of Storytelling: Why We Love a Good Yarn (Scientific American article)

Traditional Irish Storyteller vs. Modern Day YouTube Vlogger

Lessons from John Truby – The Anatomy of A Story

Ira Glass on Storytelling – Part 1

Ira Glass on Storytelling – Part 2

Ira Glass on Storytelling – Part 3

Ira Glass on Storytelling – Part 4

The Moth - Lisa’s favorite podcast that is full of great stories!

Bored Woman at Conference image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.