I’ve come to realize that excellent storytelling has become a bit of an obsession for me. The more I work with both novices and professionals on delivering great speeches and presentations, the more I work on the development of content for both print and electronic media, and the more I continue to work with authors on their novels, both new and old, the more it comes home to me that good storytelling suffuses every part of my life….and probably yours too. We are all hard-wired to respond to a good story; it helps our mind make the theoretical concrete, it engages our emotions and complements the analytical side of our brain, it helps us understand the world around us and connect with other human beings. Tellingly, a good story can also help us be assured that we are not alone; that our thoughts or actions, which we fear might be strange, or misplaced or plain “wrong”, are actually echoed by zillions of others out there in the universe.
So the ability to tell a good story is a life skill. It’s not just for business people, or comedians, or fund-raisers or salespeople. It’s crucial for every one of us.
In this TED talk, The Secret Structure of Great Talks, by Nancy Duarte, she argues that the way an idea is communicated can change the world. She talks about the magical quality of story structure, whether it be Aristotle’s three-part or Freytag’s five-part dramatic structure, and goes on to analyze the structure of two great speeches, Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech and Steve Jobs’s Introduction of the I-Phone speech, using her own developed mapping sequence.
Following her own advice, she sells her idea but stepping back and looking at life as a story, in which we all encounter road blocks and make choices to either be defeated by difficulties or choose to overcome them.
There are lessons for speechwriters, presenters, raconteurs, and ordinary folks who just want to improve their social skills in this talk. Check it out and share your thoughts or tips on good storytelling.