One of the most searched-for communication skills on the Internet is “how to tell a story.” I would like to give you a quick step-by-step guide to this process of story telling, drawn from my 23 years of being a professional storyteller. This is the fast and quick method to learn a new story.
1. Decide on a story. Sounds elementary, but at some point, you need to find a story that you love. If you are having problems, search the Internet for some simple tales or find some good stories at a site like Storyteller.net or Aesopfables.com.
2. Break the story down into an outline of events so that you can remember the episodes of each story.
You have two choices for step three. Do one or both if you would like.
3-A. Write out or draw out the parts of the story. Using longhand, that means pencil and paper, write out the episodes of the story in your own words. Do not copy the story. Rewrite it in your own words. Doing this process by hand allows your brain to overcome any resistance you might have to the story. Knowing you can do this process with your story is also a way for your brain to overcome some fear of public speaking that might hinder you from telling this story.
3-B. The other way to break down a story is via “storyboarding,” a technique that many storytellers use. Take a letter-sized piece of paper. Fold it in half along the length. You now have an eleven inch piece of pager that looks like a taco. Then, fold the right side up against the left and then fold the same way again. When you unfold the paper you will have a piece of paper divided into 8 segments.
Starting at the top segment, draw out each step of the story. This is only for you to learn so stick figures and bad drawings are just fine. This visual method may help you grasp the story better than writing alone.
4. Begin to tell yourself the story, aloud, using your own words while looking at one of the #3 tools above. Repeat this process several times.
5. Think about the story you are telling. Are there parts of the story that do not really need to be there? Do they drag down the story? Cross them off the list or the storyboard and tell yourself the story one more time with those parts of the story removed. Again, at each of these times, you are speaking your story aloud. Let your face get a feel for the story.
6. Put your notes down and tell yourself the story a few more times. This is a great exercise to do while you are driving your car or cleaning your house. Just keep talking to yourself.
7. Call up a friend or find an associate and tell them your story. Use no notes or storyboard. When you finish telling the story to your associate, ask them if it makes sense to them. Did they think you left out any parts? This is not the time to see if they “get it” or understand the deep meanings. You just want to know if the essential delivery of the story makes sense.
8. As your confidence in the story grows, you will want to start thinking about the emotions represented by different words in the story. You may find that you wish to emphasize one part or character over another. These things come with time. If you feel better about saying “once upon a time” at the beginning or “the end” as one of your story endings, then do so. As you grow to understand storytelling even more, you will learn so many other ways to start or end a story.
9. When it is time for your story’s debut, be confident. Look at your audience. Speak clearly. Slow down and enjoy the story experience. As a professional storyteller, I can tell you that it takes a dozen or more tellings of a story to find the your true rhythm and delivery for each story.
There you have it, how to tell a great story! This is a quick, get-it-now guide to storytelling. There is so much more you can learn about how to tell a story. Remember- get started today telling stories. Like a painter who must paint often to get better at painting, you, too, must speak stories often and to many groups in order to improve.
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Based in Arizona, Sean Buvala is a full-time professional storyteller and storytelling consultant who works throughout North America teaching storytelling for business. Along with storytelling techniques for corporate communication, Sean is also sought after for training storytelling for teachers of middle school and high-school students. For more information about Sean’s work as a storytelling coach, please see his site at http://www.seantells.net
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