Find Your Storytelling Style to Engage Your Audience

Storytelling is an important part of being human. Stories connect us to each other; they create a bond. We all love to hear stories, but can we tell them? Whether you’re a business professional giving a presentation, or a simple lover of stories, Lisa B. Marshall, aka The Public Speaker, will tell you how to deliver a great story to keep your listeners riveted. 

Lisa B. Marshall
5-minute read
Episode #339

I previously shared this email from a listener:

I listen to your podcast Quick and Dirty Tips for Public Speaker and I love it!

I want to start a podcast on my own— to tell short stories from a discontinued story book in India. I just do not know where to start! Can you please give some tips on how to tell stories that can keep the audience hooked?

Thank you, Siri

I explained first how to keep her listeners coming back for more just like the Serial podcast manages to do. But even more crucial, how do you get them to keep listening in the first place? It’s all about style!

Well, not exactly. You have to have a good story, too. But good stories are all around us. Anything you have to tell can be told in story form. But it has to be presented in a manner that engages the attention and the emotions of the listener. The principles I describe can be adjusted to fit any situation, whether in business or personal life, or as in this case, pure storytelling. Here’s what I told Siri:

Your Voice Is Your Instrument; Play It Well

When telling your own story, the first step is to generate a hook: something surprising or mysterious that will cause the person to want to hear what’s coming next. Then with each step of the story you must draw the person deeper into the excitement. When we tell our own stories, we have freedom to improvise. Your challenge, Siri, is to learn how to effectively tell someone else's story.  To tell the stories using the words of the author in a manner that is interesting, exciting, and compelling. It's not easy to do because to be effective you’ll need to sound as if the words are yours. This requires some skill and practice.  

In short, you’ll need to become a voice actor with your own unique style.    

Here’s how I think about it. My identical twins have been learning piano for several years now.  When one of them sits down to play a piece, I almost always know which daughter is playing the music even when I’m not in the room. Why? It’s not because one is less skilled than the other. They have been playing for the same amount of time and are equally skilled.

The difference is in the way they play, or the way they interpret the music. One daughter is far more comfortable playing in a syncopated style. She has a heavy-handed, confident style of playing. The other daughter tends to have a more fluid style of playing, with a very light touch. So when they play the same piece I can hear the difference in their styles.

Siri, in the same way, you will need to develop your unique style of delivering stories. If you think about it, in a way, telling stories provides even more freedom to create your own style than playing a piece of music. With stories you don’t have the tempo marked like music; you create your own tempo. You decide when the story needs to speed up and when it needs to slow down. You decide the overall tone of the story; you decide when it needs to be louder and when it needs to be softer. You decide where to pause and for how long to pause.


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.