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Do You Make These Storytelling Mistakes?

We all love a good story.

Tell a good story and you’ll have your audience liking you, engaged with you and wanting to know more.

ClappingCrowd2Master the art of storytelling and the sky’s the limit for you. A master storyteller will have people on the edge of their seats begging for more,
wanting to engage with you over and over again, telling others about you. They will let you into their world because you’ve let them into yours.

So what’s the difference between a good storyteller and a master storyteller? A few things:

1. A master storyteller tells the right story, to the right person, at the right time. In other words, the timing is perfect, the context is set and the story is tailored to the audience.

An amateur storyteller may tell a great story that is entertaining and interesting, but when it’s done, it’s not leading anywhere. The audience is left thinking “what was the point of that story?”. It seems out of context or self-serving on the part of the storyteller or presenter.

So, as you are writing your client-attracting presentation or webinar script, be both creative and ruthless. Think up dozens of stories to tell, pull out from your archives all the interesting stories you’d love to tell, the funny ones, the heartbreaking ones,the poignant, meaningful ones. Then be ruthless and cull out all the stories that don’t serve the overall purpose and arc of your presentation.


2. A master storyteller understands the arc and flow of a story are more important than the details. AGoodStoryShe understands that a story is an interpretation, a dramatic representation.

An amateur storyteller worries that if she leaves out details, she’s not telling the ‘truth’.

By definition, a story is a dramatic retelling from a particular point of view. I’ve worked with people on their stories and I’ll want them to say something like : “After that, I went to college and graduated with a degree in engineering”, and they’ll interrupt me saying “But actually, that’s not true. I went to college for 2 years, then I worked retail for a year, then I went on a trip to Mexico, and then I came back and finished up my degree.” News flash! No one cares about those details. Summarize. Leave things out. A story is not about reciting a resume and thinking you’re telling a story. Embellish a little. Dramatize. That’s not the same as lying. Of course don’t say you have a degree when you don’t, or be misleading about obvious facts and credentials. But, have fun. If you’re talking about what you were like as a high school kid in the eighties, tell them you had big hair and loved Duran Duran. Paint a picture. Tell a story instead of reciting details and thinking you’re telling a story.


3. A master storyteller doesn’t hide from the truth. Herein lies the paradox. A story, like a myth,reveals and presents to the listener a deeper truth. A deeper truth than the surface details, which sometimes are added to obscure or confuse. As a story expert, I am often listening to someone as they are reviewing with me a story they want to tell as a part of a presentation, and I will feel that there’s something missing. They are hiding in the story. Sometimes they are telling a story about someone else when they should be telling about themselves. Or, they are not telling the real story. Perhaps there is something painful hiding under the surface story they are a telling, or something shameful. They are trying to be funny and flippant about something that really means a lot to them. Or because it is so painful to them, they are only telling little bits of it, or they are telling it in a way that is angry or harsh, while trying to act like they don’t feel that way. I can hear it, and so will the audience.

A master storyteller is always authentic. If she can’t be authentic, she chooses to tell a different story, or gets some coaching and help to make it real.

I always tell my clients that it is better to tell a different story than to try to tell one that you can’t yet. If you can’t authentically, with true power and energy, tell the ‘real’ story (and stay connected to the audience), then wait until you are.



Are you ready to master the art of a good story-based presentation? I’d love to hear from you.

See you soon, and until then …

“Be a Better Story”

… Diane

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