Become a Better Storyteller: Practice the 3 E’s

Secretly, we all want to be better storytellers. Whether you are a writer or a marketer or a cocktail-party crasher, telling stories is something that we all share as human beings. Stories bind us and connect us. As we wrote about in Recommend This!, stories are one of the foundational 9 characteristics of forming relationships.

But let’s face it, some people are better at telling stories than others (well, at least they seem to be). Why is that? Part of it is in the delivery, there’s no question. The other part, though? It’s all learned. Good storytellers follow three basic rules:

  • Enchant. The first thing that a story must do is transport the audience somewhere else. That might be to a new land or just around the block but the storyteller must include the details that bring that place to life. When this happens, the audience can literally find see themselves in that place. Consider this the “quality” of the story.
  • Educate. Okay, stories aren’t intended to be expository accounts of how to build something (like Noah’s Ark). But they need to have a point. They need to get something across. Even the greatest pieces of literature have underlying messages that they are trying to impart. As George Orwell once said, “If you don’t have anything important to write, don’t write it” (or something to that effect). Your storytelling must have an underlying point. Remember that we are intrinsically wired for hearing and telling stories but that’s because they are the best means to impart information. Do you think Little Red Riding Hood was just about a girl in the forest?
  • Emote. Every good story must elicit some emotional reaction from the audience. Without the emotional reaction, whether hate or love, whether angst or empathy, the story falls flat. And when a story falls flat, it has little opportunity to impart its message or enchant the audience. Emotion is what drives our visceral reaction to a story and forces our brains to either absorb or discard what the story is trying to tell us.

Image courtesy of theabundantartist.com.

Jason Thibeault is the senior director of marketing strategy for Limelight Networks. In this role he helps direct Limelight’s corporate messaging and positioning, develops whitepapers and e-books, blogs, and evangelizes the Limelight solution offering to audiences around the world. He holds a B.A. in English from the University of California, Irvine Honors Program and a M.A. in English, with distinction, from California State University, Northridge. Jason is the co-author of the marketing thought-leadership book Recommend This! Delivering Digital Experiences People Want to Share (Wiley), the middle-reader chapter series Marmalade (Dime Novel Books), and rethinkeverythingblog.com. He is an inventor on a number of technical patents with Limelight Networks. Follow him on twitter @_jasonthibeault.

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