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Articles filed in: Story Skills

What Great Storytellers Know

My idea of a good non-fiction book is one without filler that I read to the end without skimming. I like to invest in a book that will teach me something in an afternoon that I can use for a lifetime. Those are the goals I had in mind when I wrote my new book, What Great Storytellers Know.

We’ve always used stories to entertain, teach, and inspire. And despite what we’re often led to believe, storytelling is not an innate ability. It’s a skill anyone—from marketers and professional communicators to parents and teachers—can, and should, master.

In What Great Storytellers Know, I take you through the steps of finding and strengthening your storytelling muscles. I share the seven skills to being a great storyteller and show you how to cultivate them to build trust and connection. 

You’ll discover how to become more fully present and in tune with the world around you; how to find the extraordinary in the everyday and the power in the particular; how to speak from the heart and express your truth; and how to recognise, and replicate, the patterns in strong stories to chart an emotional path for your audiences.

You’ll also experience how the power of storytelling extends not just to the listener, but to the storyteller. As you find your voice, you’ll create the change you want to see—whether to inspire hope in the hearts of your team, to build trust with your customers, or to strengthen a relationship.

It’s been a joy and a privilege to write this book for you.

Storytelling For The Rest Of Us

Every decision you’ve ever made was influenced by a story—every single one. From the decision about whether to wear a mask during a pandemic, to the charities you choose to support.

 A story you heard, the story you believed or that story you told yourself, had an impact on those choices.

If stories are our most persuasive technology, why don’t we do more to put them to work? Why don’t we leverage the power of stories every day in our work and our lives?

Over the past fifty years, we’ve come to believe that storytelling is a professional discipline. A skill for the master storytellers at the Disney’s or the Saatchi and Saatchi’s of the world. We’ve stopped honing the story skills that came so naturally to our ancestors. We’ve forgotten how to tell small, powerful, everyday stories.

I’m on a mission to change that and to help more people leverage the power of storytelling to become their most inspiring selves.

You don’t need an epic story to be a great storyteller. You just need to adopt the posture of a storyteller and to practice the craft. Together with a team of incredible coaches, that’s what I’ve been helping people to do for the past year.

If you want to reclaim your story skills, you can sign up for details about our next workshop.

Image by Photo by Niko Virtanen license Creative Commons BY

We Learn By Doing

When my sons were younger, they loved listening to the straight-talking comedian and radio presenter, Karl Pilkington. One of their favourite Pilkington quotes is:
‘You won’t get anything done by planning.’ They often quoted it to me during exam times when I made hints about the benefits of revision timetables.

I’m not sure if Pilkington ever explained what he meant when he said this, but there’s wisdom in his words. Plans are a necessary starting point for any project. But plans and projections alone won’t get us to where we want to go.

We learn what’s next by making a start, with a leap of faith—by taking that first step.

We build on our experience, not our plans.

We learn by doing.

Image by David Brooke Martin

The Case For Storytelling

Every day during the current global pandemic we’ve watched the numbers go up.
We’ve listened to our leaders tell us about the number of active cases.
We’ve seen unemployment figures published in news articles.
We’ve heard about the numbers of lives lost.

Our scientists, experts and leaders keep us informed to convince us of the seriousness of the situation. They need to gain our trust and influence us to act in the interest of the collective good. Without a doubt, we need the rigour of data. But we also need the persuasive power of storytelling to spread these life-saving health messages and measures.

Storytelling is our most persuasive technology.

Hearing a story about one person’s experience has more impact on us than all the data in the world. We humans are hardwired to be influenced by stories. And yet, we are rarely trained in the important skill of storytelling.

Every one of us needs to learn these story skills if we are to inspire change. I want our activists, educators, leaders and scientists to become better storytellers. And I want you to be your most influential and inspiring self so that you can use your stories for good.

Last year Seth Godin and I launched The Story Skills Workshop to help more people like you to harness the power of storytelling. Since then, 5,000 people have taken the workshop. We’re proud of how we’ve helped people like you to become better storytellers.

You can sign up for details about when the workshop opens again here.

We each have the power to tell better stories and create the future we want to see.

Image by Raj

When Things Catch On

When things catch on, we often assume that their success happened en masse and out of the blue. One day an idea is invisible to us, the next it’s everywhere.

The truth about ideas that fly is that they gain traction in increments.

One story, one believer, one advocate at a time.

We earn the right to speak to more people by delighting the first one.

Image by Ketan Rajput

On Influence

Many of us go through life feeling powerless to change things. After all, not everyone has leadership status or power conferred upon them. We sometimes believe that influence is a top-down construct—that we can have the most influence from a position of authority.

Let’s challenge that assumption.

Think about someone whose impact helped change how you see the world.

My uncle Larry was that person for me. He was the youngest of my grandmother’s eleven children—born with a genetic disorder that caused many health issues throughout his life and his premature death. Larry never knew his father, who died as he lay sleeping in bed next to him and my grandmother when he was a year old.

When he was thirteen, Larry’s headmaster told him he was too tall to be at school and instructed him to leave. That was the end of his formal education. It was hard for him to find manual work because he was often sick. He learned to love reading and was curious about the world. He chain-smoked and spent hours tinkering with big motorbikes.

Larry introduced me to the library when I was seven. I grew up in a house with no books, so joining the library changed everything. Larry was the one who unlocked the magic of books for me. He taught me to play chess and ride a bike without training wheels. When I went with him to his outpatient hospital appointments, we sat in the canteen over lukewarm tea and Club Milk biscuits watching doctors and nurses coming and going in the corridors. ‘You could be a doctor or a nurse one day,’ Larry said. He was the person who encouraged me to expect the most for and from myself.

I’m willing to bet the people who’ve had an impact on you rarely had the authority to do so. Each one of us, regardless of our status, can choose to be an encourager—an agent of possibility for others.

Image by Seth Stoll

Stories For Good

Stories are our most persuasive technology. The stories we tell can be powerful catalysts for change. But the stories that silence us are the most potent of all.

The stories we choose to believe and believe in are the making of us.

We can use our voices to raise the voices of those whose stories have been ignored.

We can choose the narratives that survive and thrive.

We can use stories for good.

Image by Tamarcus Brown

To Whom It May Concern

When an aspiring author is pitching her work to a publisher or agent, she needs to address the agent directly.

In her query letter, it’s not enough to be aware of her book’s strengths—she must also know who it’s for and why this particular agent will care enough to read the first few chapters.

It doesn’t matter what idea you’re selling—it could be a logo, financial services or behaviour change, the same rules apply.

You’ll always get a better result when you open your pitch with the words, ‘Dear Someone Specific’ in your mind.

Act as if you’re writing a letter to a person you know, not a marketing message. Because you are.

Image by Green Chameleon

Your Goal Is To Matter To The People You Serve

I once worked with a startup in the financial services industry. The foyer of their office building was all polished floorboards, high white walls and minimal seating. Inspirational magazines were strategically arranged on low tables, next to the espresso machine.

The walls were completely bare apart from a big decal that declared how many customers the company had acquired. Proudly serving a million customers, it read.

That number was the story the company’s leadership team chose to tell. It was a story about growth, success and their upward trajectory. The goal was to build trust with visitors and excitement among the team. The number said something about the company’s values and aspirations, but it didn’t tell the whole story.

As part of our work together, I helped them to find and amplify individual customer stories. They went from talking about how many people they served to showing how they helped one small business at a time. Finding, owning and sharing their stories enabled them to demonstrate that they were not just a company that measured—they were a company that mattered.

That opportunity is open to all of us.
What stories can you tell today to show people why your work matters?

*Today is the last day to enrol in The Story Skills Workshop. You can join us at the special discounted rate for my blog readers using this link. Here are some of the stories of the people we’ve helped to become better storytellers.

Image by Hayley Phelps

The Medium, The Message AND The Messenger

We know that when it comes to persuasive communication, it isn’t just the message that matters. How and where we deliver the message helps it to resonate and to spread.

Speechwriters can write eloquent words which our leaders are instructed to deliver, but message only lands when it’s spoken with conviction.

When it comes to convincing people to buy into our ideas, we must consider what we want to say and how we will show up to say it.

If we’re going to tell better stories we need to become better storytellers.

Great storytellers craft the message, use the right medium and most importantly practise their delivery. These are skills we all need now more than ever.

*Enrollments for The Story Skills Workshop are open now. You can join now using this special discount link for my blog readers.

Image by Mitchell Luo