Tell A Good Story

“The soundest fact may fail or prevail in the style of its telling.” Ursula Le Guin

A few years ago, I flew across the country to Santa Barbara to attend a business retreat led by a very famous author and consultant.   The event was held in a beautiful old rustic hotel surrounded by spectacular views of the ocean, the desert, the mountains, and a plethora of wildlife including dozens of hummingbirds feeding on the bush alongside my second-floor deck.

The local food was luscious, the local wines were exquisite, the service was exceptional.

Everything about the trip was wonderful. Except for one thing. The retreat leader.

I don’t remember a single thing he said. I do remember how boring he was. How erratic his messages. How irritating his examples. How much I wished I was out hiking one of those mountains in the distance, swimming in the ocean, or doing anything accept sitting in a room with a couple of dozen people being put to sleep for a ridiculous sum of money.

There are far too many people – leaders, managers, sales people – who remind me of that retreat leader. They’re terrible at telling stories.  They’re oblivious to the glazed-over expressions on the faces in front of them; the eyes drifting to the ceiling, their desire to escape.  They have no idea that they’re creating a memory of a bad experience rather than a fascinating story that drives home their message in a provocative way.

They don’t understand that they should be telling you a good story built around the facts they want you to retain. A story that takes you on an engaging journey and leaves you excited, inspired, and motivated.

If you think about the people you know who are great communicators– those who consistently and effectively get across their messages–you’ll notice that they are also great storytellers. But few of them are born that way. It’s just like most famous actors. They’ve studied their craft. They practice and practice and practice to continuously improve.

In order to offer those you lead, manage, or sell to a positive experience that energizes them into action, you must tell a good story. And in order to tell a good story you must expand your storytelling skills through learning and practice.

Watch videos of speakers you admire, take a class in improving your speaking skills, try your stories out on a friend. Be brave and ask people for an honest assessment of your storytelling skills and how you can improve.

Closely observe those whom you’re addressing. Shape your story based on how they respond. If you observe captivated expressions, stay the course. If you hear snores, get coaching and work harder to become a better storyteller. It’s well worth the effort. The power of being a good storyteller is immense.

The wisdom of Plato still remains true: “Storytellers rule the world.”

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