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What Makes a Good Story?

29 May 2018

Eden read How to Tell a Story by Daniel McDermon and thought about practical ways she could enhance communication through storytelling.

Tags: communication, eden read, leadership, storytelling

Have you ever thought a story was incredibly interesting in your head and later discovered that it fell flat the moment you said it out loud? When done well, storytelling can be a powerful communication tool for building community, connecting with an audience, or inspiring teams. However, when it’s done poorly, it can have the opposite impact and leave you and your listeners feeling somewhat disconnected. I recently read How to Tell a Story, by Daniel McDermon, and thought about how I could apply the article’s advice to become a better storyteller.

The first piece of advice that resonated with me comes from Ted Conference curator, Chris Anderson, with his reminder that “you can’t say everything.” One thing I know about myself and the way I tell stories is that I like to include as much detail as possible and let others draw their own conclusions. This tendency isn’t a stylistic choice, but rather is due to the fact that I’ve never been very good at summarizing. I remember being in elementary school and becoming extremely frustrated with a writing assignment that prompted me to summarize several paragraphs into a few sentences. I told my mom I couldn’t do it because I thought that all of the details were important. (Needless to say, I probably wouldn’t enjoy adapting books into feature films.) However, Anderson’s advice reminded me that level of detail does not always equal level of impact. Good storytellers know their audience and choose to give detail to the story elements that will create the best experience for the listener.

I’ve also been thinking about storytelling as it relates to teaching and public speaking. I’ve observed countless keynote speakers and presenters over the past several years use stories to introduce a topic or drive home a teaching point. As I develop my own skills as a presenter, I know that storytelling is going to be an integral communication tool. However, it can be daunting to compare some of the well-curated stories I’ve heard to my current level of experience. I was glad for McDermon’s reminder that practice is key when it comes to storytelling. He says that, “To build muscle, weightlifters have to get their reps in. And if you want to develop your skills as a speaker or storyteller, so do you.”  

What about you? If you have any tips for storytelling, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.


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