How to Get More People to Follow You Through Storytelling

A great story makes your listener feel like they’re there with you.

We all know this. We are constantly reminded that to get the job done, to give a good presentation, to really get your message across we need to be great at storytelling. A great story makes your listener feel like they’re there with you.  A great story makes the listener draw a picture in their mind. A picture that works for them. 

How to Tell a Great Story

I train my clients to tell great stories and to have an arsenal of anecdotes.  There are so many reasons for this.  Not the least of which is that it causes people to open up to you. Sounds counter-intuitive, right? It’s not. When you tell great (short) stories you compel people to tell a related story. This is part of being a great leader.

When you meet someone for the first time would you rather them ask you a bunch of mundane, hackneyed questions (like, “Where are you from?”, “What do you do?”, etc.) or entertain you with a fun, relatable story? Instant relationship developer right there! That’s what it’s all about, right? Developing strong, successful relationships in your professional and personal lives.

Here’s how I do it:

Design your story

Take notes throughout your life of stories that are relevant to your message. Or just to things that make you have an emotion. Anecdotal stories are awesome but not necessary.

Whether they’re able to take notes or not, I ask my clients to record themselves rambling on about their topic.  I really mean it. I want your first story to be a terrible representation of your message. Just like when you’re in college & you know you have a paper due in 3 months but you don’t work on it until the day before it’s due. My advice to you is to shoot for a C paper. Write your C paper in September. Then sit down again in October and make it a B. By November you’ve got an A+.

Then we listen to the recording and we pull out all the important elements of the story.  We organize them in the most effective way. You start with something that’s going to tie-in to the ending. To draw people in.

Focus on the ending

Make sure your ending packs a punch. Don’t be compelled to say, “That’s my story.” or “That’s all I have to say about that.” Make sure you’ve weaved in your call-to-action.

Stories Should be Short & Concise

DO NOT USE TOO MANY DETAILS! Much of what I’ve read out there recommends lots of details. I disagree wholeheartedly. When we listen to a story, in our mind’s eye we see the story the way it makes us happy.  Leave in all necessary elements, but don’t give too many details. You want your listener to be an active participant in the story & letting them draw their own picture is critical.  If you’re face-to-face it gives them the opportunity to ask the questions that are important to them.

This applies to interviews, meetings with your boss, your team, venture capitalists, small talk, everyone who needs to see things your way. In all communicative situations you should have cool stories.

Boring people to tears is never a good comunication skill to practice. Always leave your listeners wanting more from you. A good anecdote is 15-45 seconds. Stories for presentations can be a bit longer.  I like the TEDx 15 minutes. If you can pack a punch in 10 or 15 minutes you’re doing yourself and your listeners a huge favor.