Episode 9 : Storytelling Skills and Technique

by Ian

in Podcast, Storytelling

Telling Your Story – Authentic, Laconic and Captivating

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You’re Telling Your Story

from myprontopup on flickr

Garrison Keillor speaking of the News from Lake Wobegon

Storytelling is the art of taking a story,  your story or another’s and retelling that story.  Creating entertainment utilising all the skills of theatre to modifying your style to suit and engage with the audience, drawing them into the story until they drift into an altered state and become part of the story.  Retelling, reflection and practice improves your skills in the storytelling art.  There are guides everywhere on storytelling and although the general principles are relevant and if you have great storytelling skills all the better but that is not what we are doing here.  You are not Storytelling.  You are Telling a Story.

Instead of telling and re-telling the same story, you are telling your own individual personal story and most probably only telling that story once.  You can re-record and as skills improve maybe that is worth considering but hopefully by following a couple of basic simple techniques you can make one recording that tells a great story using the skills developed by the great storytellers.  Some of those general principles I have included here along with some of the skills of storytelling from the world of journalism.

It’s a story not a lecture

Telling your story is not like writing an essay as you were taught in school. Don’t mention what is to be said, then say it, then recap. With the traditional method of setting out the content of what is to be mentioned the story is over before you’ve started, there is no drama, you know how it is going to end.  The punch line is contained in the beginning and then you go on to repeat the detail of the content only to bore the listener because they know were it is all leading.  Let’s leave the punch line for the end where it belongs, let the story evolve, taking the listener on a  journey not knowing where they are going and the punch line will be revealed at the end.

Instead create an anecdote that builds the story, event by event as it happened.  Ideally a great story will have a variation on these elements:

  1. Beginning – sets the stage
  2. Body – starts and builds the story
  3. Sequence of events – helps to create a story
  4. Bait – Constantly raising questions(where is this going?) and answering them in a reflective way
  5. Climax – story builds to a high point
  6. Resolution – the punch line results in the reflection on the story

Once you have the story that you want to mention, think of the introducing question and your opening statement as mentioned in the previous episodes, then sit with it, mulling it over for a few days.  Reminiscing on the events, times and people involved.  Live with the story for a while as you may not have considered these points for some years and it’s a good idea to become re-familiar with it.

Don’t over think the story

Once you have the subject of the story in mind, then only prepare by having a clear opening and final statement, the rest is an anecdote and is best to be something that is told from the heart as natural and in your individual style as is possible.  Think that you are talking to someone you know in an intimate one on one casual conversation.  Allowing yourself to drift into a self-reflective state of reminiscing by just letting the story flow.  If the story is flowing well  from your memory, you should hopefully be naturally following the following general guidelines:

The Great Samuel Clemens aka. Mark Twain

  1. Appropriate – Imagine who is listening
  2. A single theme or subject
  3. Follow a timeline
  4. Create word pictures utilising all the story telling tools(below)
  5. Mention personalities
  6. Build the drama.
  7. Punchline/resolution causing the reflection on the story point

Within items two to six in the above list there are skills that can, where appropriate, enhance the storytelling to draw in the listener and engage them in the story.

Story Telling tools:

  • Be real and sincere in describing the elements  of the story
  • Show your passion for the story and desire to share it
  • Dive straight in and weave any back story into the story
  • Travel through the story, stage by stage
  • Use the 5 senses of hearing, smell, touch, taste and sight but add a sixth of emotion
  • Talk of the reactions of others within the story
  • Speak relative to the listener, names, relationships etc
  • Speak in short breathable sections to create a rhythm
  • Speak conversationally – No radio voice
  • Describe the characters and environments to draw the listener in and build drama
  • Wander away from the subject for a time but always return to the story for the resolution to link back to the purpose

Simply by diving into the story the listener is taken on a journey of your choosing, drawing them down rabbit holes and out again, teasing them with tit bits of information slowly creating questions then answering them until a moment appears that links them back to the beginning, creating a whole of the story and it’s resolution.

Humour is often storytelling where the link back to the beginning creates and epiphany or aha moment and it’s only in looking back that “you get it” and the joke is realised.  In telling your story the same applies within a single story but may be linked back to anything that has been mentioned within the whole of the life conversations.  The punch line or resolution makes sense within the understanding of something that was understood earlier.

If you want to get into shape for this take some advice from Garrison Keillor that great American humorist of A Prairie Home Companion.  Go and listen to A Prairie Home Companion and listen to some great yarns from The News from Lake Wobegon and study a master storyteller at work.  Then modify what you learn to suit your own personality.


  • Listen to some great storytellers and learn from them
  • Modify storytelling technique to suit yourself and telling your story
  • Pick a subject for one story and structure it as outlined above and record it

What are your thoughts?  Make a comment below and let us know your thoughts. How do you feel about telling a story and how relevant are these points.

Record or Write, Your or My Life Story Biography

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