If you polled 100 people and asked them what was the most important part of a good story, 95 of them would likely say “the ending.” Actor Johnny Depp said of one of his movies, “All that matters is the ending. It’s the most important part of the story.” That may be true for the big screen, but for public speakers, it’s another aspect of the story that matters most.
What could be more important than a good ending, you ask? The Significance. The “So What?” The reason why anyone should listen to you. The thing that makes your audience go “Aha!” Without it, you simply have a bunch of words with no relevance or value. The instinct to turn a series of dry and boring facts into a more compelling narrative is great. And planning to tell a story instead of lecturing to your audience could quite possibly catapult you to a higher ranking on the Saint Waiting List. But without the connection to your overall goal, or to the audience’s WIIFM, you will just waste people’s time. And worse than that, you can leave a bad impression.
A good resource for the basics of storytelling is CNN’s iReport Bootcamp series. Packed with quick and tangible how-to segments, the site offers a wide array of helpful information. Their term for the “So What” of a story is the “angle.” Here is their advice:
Finding the angle: The key to a successful story is uncovering the reason audiences should care about it. When thinking about the story, ask yourself “So what?” or “Who cares?” Answering these questions will ultimately tell your story. Without an angle, without a reason for what you’re covering, you’re just left with moving pictures or words on a page.
Amen. If you want to impress your audience and really make a great impression, spend some time matching your “plot” to your key message. Included below is iReport’s Storytelling Tips:
Get the basics. First things first: your story needs to include the basics. That’s who, what, where, when, why and how. It needs to be true, and it needs to be fair.
Pinpoint the significance. Why should your audience care about your story? It’s your job as a storyteller to explain why anyone should. Think about how you can connect your story with your audience.
Talk like a human being. Your story should be told in words we all use and understand. If you were going to call your best friend and tell her the story, what would you start with? And how would you describe it? That’s probably the best part, and the simplest way to get it across. Start there, and see where it takes you.
Make it flow. A story needs pace. You want your audience to need to know what happens next. Build pace with narrative, quotes, natural sound, or, if you’re working with video, creative shot editing.
Get at the emotion. It feels real. Emotion is a powerful connector, and can go a long way toward helping us understand one another. Think about how you can use images, sound and words to express the emotional range of a story and its characters.
Make a plan. Map it out. If you’re planning to edit a video, put together a photo gallery, or write a text story, it usually helps to put together a plan of action. What are the crucial details? What’s the most important part? How are the pieces connected? Draft an outline or sketch a storyboard before you get started with the hard work of writing and editing. You’ll be glad you did.
Do you want to change your story now?