May 20, 2012

Tips For Telling Stories

engrossedby Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012, CC

We love stories, especially when they’re told to us.

Including stories makes your talk more engaging and memorable. There's a temptation to tell true stories but there aren't any.
We always speak from our perspective, which causes distortions. The audience interprets, which creates further distortions.

Here are tips for telling stories
  1. Ditch fake stories
  2. Tell unique stories
  3. Edit for impact

Ditch Fake Stories

Some speakers use stories from others without attribution. Maybe you've heard a variation of this one:
I was on the subway platform and three children were running around annoying everyone. I nearly spilled my coffee. The father wasn't doing anything. I was annoyed. I told him to supervise his children. It's as if he hadn't noticed them. He said they were returning from the hospital where their mom just died. They didn't know how to react. Neither did he.
It's a good story ... the first time. I've heard at least three variations. Each speaker claimed the experience happened to them. That's unlikely. How can you trust a speaker who's deceived you? How original can their content really be?

Tell Unique Stories

You can tell stories from others and give them credit. That’s fine for beginners. As your skills improve, you face the risk of your audience having heard the same tale from another speaker. How does that position you as the expert?

The most unique stories are the ones that happened to you and told from your perspective. How can anyone else copy that?

Edit For Impact

Real life is often boring. Find the essence of your story and express it in an impactful way. Isn't that cheating? No. You have goals and time limits. You have to edit anyway. Write out your full story and edit out what isn't needed.

Ask yourself if the story is even relevant. Just because you want to tell it does not mean the audience benefits. If you're compelled to tell stories, you can put recordings on YouTube, blog or record podcasts.

The End.


Promod Sharma is an actuary who has been learning to add impact with stories (

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