5 ways to share a story that won’t make listeners’ eyes glaze over

Do you ramble, ramble and ramble on until you get to the point? How many times have you started telling a story, only to watch a listener or crowd lose interest and start checking their phone intermittently? Here’s how to get better at storytelling.

Photo: Davide Ragusa on Unsplash

Do you ramble, ramble and ramble on until you get to the point? How many times have you started telling a story, only to watch a listener or crowd lose interest and start checking their phone intermittently? Here’s how to get better at storytelling.

Draw on your own life experiences

This could come in handy.

Jonah Sachs, author of Winning the Story Wars and CEO of Free Range Studios, told the Harvard Business Review about how this can be of use.

“Think of a moment in which your own failures led to success in your career or a lesson that a parent or mentor imparted. … Any of these things can be interesting emotional entry points to a story.”

Beware of your surroundings

You’ll be glad you did.

Daniel McDermon, a writer and former editor at The New York Times, writes about this in the publication.

“Think about the context in which you’re telling your story. Are you standing onstage in front of unfamiliar people? Or are you at your cousin’s wedding? The last thing you want is to make your audience uncomfortable, so you need to read the room. If you’re unsure whether your story is right for the audience, ask someone who might be there — an organizer or another speaker would do.

Remember, there’s beauty in the ‘stakes’

The Moth, which hosts live storytelling events, features guidelines on its website. One of the tips is to “have some stakes.”

“Stakes are essential in live storytelling. What do you stand to gain or lose? Why is what happens in the story important to you? If you can’t answer this, then think of a different story. A story without stakes is an essay and is best experienced on the page, not the stage. Start in the action,” the website reads.

If you’re a leader, be sure to choose your stories wisely

Don’t just jump right in.

Brett Bourbon, Ph.D., a consultant, associate professor of English and co-director of the Master of Leadership program at the University of Dallas, writes on the school’s website about why leaders should keep this in mind.

“Leaders establish what they stand for and who they are through the stories they tell and through the stories told about them. These stories create a community around the leader, who in turn uses additional stories to guide this community. Leaders can also alienate the community they lead by the stories they tell and the stories they come to symbolize. In leadership, stories always matter. (Be careful how you tweet!),” he writes.

Tie up loose ends the right way

Jenn Tardif, a yoga teacher and a Product & Marketing Manager at Adobe, writes about storytelling on the website for Adobe 99U. She outlines an approach called the Five Beats of Storytelling by storytelling expert, performer, comedian and host of The Moth David Crabb.

The last beat is about “the resolution.”

“In the fifth beat, you have an opportunity to highlight what makes the story unique. If you’ve just described a failure or challenge, this would be the time to reflect on what you learned. This is also where you could try to sell something — if you’re using storytelling as part of a pitch — or recap your competency if applying for a job,” Tardif writes.

Jane Burnett|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at jburnett@theladders.com.