Owning the ability to tell a great story can transform your life. Being a great storyteller could help you interact better with other people. It can also go as far as landing you that great job or leaving a good impression on that first date.
But if you’re a shy, introverted person like me, it can be quite a challenge. So, if we’re on the same boat, or maybe you want to improve more on this skill, then join me as we talk about what makes a great storyteller?
“You’re never going to kill storytelling because it’s built-in the human plan. We come with it.”Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale
What are the qualities of a great storyteller? What traits do they exhibit?
There are good ways and bad ways to tell a story. And that hugely depends on the qualities we have. To become a great storyteller, you need to have qualities that will set you above everyone else, and here are some of them.
Enthusiasm can be shown in different ways. You can use your voice, eyes, facial expressions, and body movements. Showing enthusiasm is an effective way to make your audience feel how much you want to tell the story.
You don’t need to sound excited or giddy. Having good composure, a bright tone in your voice, and throwing a few gestures or movements here and there is enough. Remember, when you sound interested, your audience will feel interested.
What makes a great storyteller is having a good level of empathy towards others. Storytelling is an essential human interaction. There is no specific way to do it correctly because we’re all unique, and stories vary depending on our experiences.
Storytellers don’t always tell stories just about themselves. They also tell stories about other people. According to this article from Indie Wire, telling stories is like riding through someone else’s life and empathy is a great driving force in this. That is why understanding and sharing the same feeling towards others’ experiences makes empathy an essential trait to have. As a storyteller, having empathy will let your audience feel the connection between you, the story, and the feelings you share.
Storytelling is an art. If you are not born with the talent in storytelling, it can be a valuable skill you can develop. But just like other forms of art, Creativity is something you should possess to stand out. Creativity is what makes you give out something new, something unique to the audience.
You have the freedom to choose how to apply Creativity to your audience. You can express it through delivery, the subject of the story, or even the method of putting out those stories to the world. It’s really up to you.
Being a storyteller also holds trust, both from your audience and your subject (if applicable). If you’re telling a story about somebody else’s life, you need to build trust between you and your subject. Some storytellers even interview their subjects to make sure that what they say is true and accurate. It’s the only way you’ll be able to get to the heart of the story. That is, if your subject is an actual person and not a fictional character, of course.
A great storyteller would also establish trust between him/her and the audience. You must also be trustworthy in how you deliver a story. The story should be genuine, relatable, and not full of copied plots, subjects, or scenarios. Surely you wouldn’t trust someone who steals ideas and pieces from other artists, right? If you want to win an audience, you must win their trust.
How can I be a better storyteller?
Now that we’ve discussed the essential traits of being a great storyteller, let’s move on to what you can do to become one. Many people have used different methods in improving their storytelling abilities. Here are a few common methods used by storytellers, which you can try out too.
1. Deliver a clear core message
There is always a lesson to take away from every story. As the storyteller, you must convey that clearly to your audience. To do this, you need to understand the core message of your story. What is your story really about? What is the lesson behind it? What would you want your audience to learn from it?
These are some of the questions you need to ask to understand the story you’re telling. When you get your core message, make sure it’s well delivered within the narrative so that your audience would easily understand it too.
“The most amazing thing for me is that every single person who sees a movie, not necessarily one of my movies, brings a whole set of unique experiences, but through careful manipulation and good storytelling, you can get everybody to clap at the same time, to hopefully laugh at the same time, and to be afraid at the same time.”– Steven Spielberg, filmmaker
2. Structure your story properly
The structure of the story is vital in storytelling. You must have good sequencing of events that your audience will easily understand. When telling a story, you don’t always have to start at the very beginning. You can begin at any point in your story. You can start from the middle or the end of events, but make sure it wouldn’t confuse the audience.
Take note that storytelling is verbal, and your delivery matters. It’s not like reading a book where you can jump from present to future to past and back to present. When not appropriately prompted, the time frame can make your story confusing. So it’s best if you first arrange an excellent sequence that can be easily understood by your listeners.
3. Visualize the scenarios
Remember when we mentioned empathy earlier in this article? Here’s how you can develop that trait in storytelling: learn how to visualize scenarios as if you’re in there.
Given that it’s not coming from a personal experience putting yourself in your subjects’ shoes will help you understand the emotion behind them. And when you do, you’ll start to develop empathy, a trait essential to this act. Visualizing doesn’t only help in developing this trait; it will also help you understand the meaning behind the story a lot better. Thus, allowing you to tell the story a lot better.
4. Don’t be scared of conflicts and controversial issues
Some storytellers try to avoid conflicts and controversial topics with the fear of offending others. But if you want to become a great storyteller, you shouldn’t be afraid of such issues.
Conflicts make a story more climatic and interesting. Scenarios like downfalls and struggles make a story more human, more relatable. Isn’t it true that we all commit mistakes and experience failures? If you want to make your audience feel more welcomed, you shouldn’t skip on these bits. The same goes for controversial topics.
Addressing subjects of mental health, abuse, and others has become more open these past few years. It could be a double-edged sword to some people, but letting them know your side and how you perceive situations like these will leave an impression on your audience. It will also show them a piece of your personality and your values as a storyteller. If you’re aspiring to become a great storyteller, you shouldn’t be afraid to make a statement and stand by it.
5. Practice, practice, practice
Like I mentioned earlier, storytelling is a skill you can develop. Similar to other skills, practicing can help you enhance and develop your storytelling skill. How will you do that? Here are some easy ways:
- Pick a subject and plot out your story.
- Practice speaking in front of a mirror. Do this so you can see your facial expressions, gestures, and your overall look.
- You can also record a video of yourself if you find the ‘mirror technique’ a bit awkward.
- Do it in front of your friends or any other listener and ask them for feedback. Did they understand your story? Did you look natural and confident? Ask them what they think.
- If you want to be a bit extra, try watching other storytellers and take notes on how they deliver their stories. You can then incorporate your learnings into your own methods.
- Work on improving and fixing any flaws you could find.
Remember, you don’t need to be a perfect storyteller. Being natural, relatable, and genuine is good enough.
How do you become a great storyteller and win over an audience?
Being a storyteller is one thing. But being a storyteller who the audience loves is also another. You shouldn’t settle on just being a storyteller. What makes a great storyteller is the one who wins over their audience.
So how will you do that? Here are some useful tips you can follow.
Keep them interested
Now listen; keeping an audience interested the entire time can be pretty challenging. But you can do that by applying basically all the points we’ve talked about earlier. If you’ve read through this far in the article, you must’ve picked up valuable techniques here and there. But if you’ve been skipping, I’m telling you it’s worth going back and reading from the top.
Anyway, I have more points to add. You should also try and make your stories more personal. Dig through your own experiences and share them with your audience. According to this article from The Daily Aztec, sharing your own stories and experiences with others could also help your personal growth and maturity. It can also bring you healing. So it’s not just your audience who benefits from this. When we talk about our experiences, it’s a lot easier for us to be genuine with our reactions and emotions towards them. And you know what audiences love? – Highly relatable stories. Mostly personal.
Use all resources you can find
Nowadays, people are provided with more mediums wherein they can share their experiences with the world. Technology has given the power to share stories a lot easier than before. As a storyteller, if you’re trying to win over an audience, you should take advantage of all available resources, especially on the internet.
Social media, blogs, articles, forums, etc., can be great mediums for telling stories. Social media sites like Tiktok, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube have become a hive of millions of stories from people worldwide. In fact, terms like Social Media storytelling and Transmedia Storytelling are now part of the trend. If you want to be a great storyteller, go out there and use all the mediums you’re comfortable with. It will surely reach millions of audiences in no time.
Don’t forget to add some humor
Who doesn’t want a good laugh? I admit that stories become more enjoyable when it’s sprinkled with a bit of humor on the side. Adding some jokes or punchlines while telling a story can help break the tension and give dynamics to your storytelling. Especially when you’re talking about serious topics and controversial issues. In fact, research shows that humor, when used correctly, can help enhance emotional engagement between you and the listener.
So if you’re aspiring to improve your storytelling skills, don’t forget to add some humor.
Ready to become a great storyteller?
Storytelling is a skill that can’t be just developed overnight. It takes time, just like any other skill, but it’s definitely worth it. It’s a valuable skill to have, and it could make a difference in your life. I hope you’ve picked up something useful from this article.
Don’t be afraid to share your stories with the world. You are a storyteller, and you’re now on your journey of becoming a great one.