As human beings, we are attracted to good stories because they are engaging, memorable, and they appeal to our emotional side. If we want to connect with someone, telling a compelling story will leave a lasting impression in both their head and their heart. Although there are numerous ways to tell a good story, there are some key aspects that are common to all approaches. Stories need a structure for the listener to follow – beginning, middle and end is most familiar. The beginning needs to give the context, or set the scene – when and where is the story taking place? It also introduces the character(s); often it’s ourselves, or we make the listener the hero. An important challenge or dilemma is presented here too. The middle part describes the main character’s journey through a struggle, and some sort of internal and/or external transformation during the challenge. The end resolves the challenge and the hero comes out with an emotion. That connecting sentiment could be victorious, disappointed, relieved, educated, confused, inspired, you name it. There are lots of tricks to enhance our stories too. We can incorporate an element of surprise, describe a relatable emotion, use humour, include a metaphor, add dialogue, express with gestures, display an illustrative prop, get super descriptive, and so on. Storytelling is an essential skill that builds instant rapport, and leaves a lasting impression.
Take action: If you know you’re heading into a situation where you’ll be meeting new people and want to quickly get past small talk, craft a couple stories ahead of time. Some thought starters: how you met your significant other, an experience you’ve had with a particular organization, a flubbed renovation, a funny misunderstanding, or something odd you noticed on your way to the event.
Inspired by Paul Smith’s book, Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives that Captivate, Convince and Inspire.