Storytelling is not just for children—it’s one of the oldest forms of communication throughout history. Storytelling is how we learn, and it’s infinitely more personal and relatable than simple facts, figures, or even images. So what is it, why should we be learning how to tell stories, and most importantly, how can we learn to tell a good story?
Why is storytelling important?
Storytelling is an effective way to not only communicate with your audience, but to connect with them on a personal level. When people connect with you as a fellow human being, they listen to what you are saying and trust what they are hearing from you. Storytelling is an ideal way to:
- Begin your presentation
- Break up your presentation with a relatable experience
- Help your audience to authentically “buy in” to what you are saying
- Create a sense of community on social media
- Have people get a peek behind the scenes
- Create emotional involvement and engagement
10 Tips for Mesmerizing Storytelling
We really love storytelling over here and have observed many examples over the years of powerful and effective storytelling both in live presentations, recorded video, and social media posts. Here are some of our favorite tips:
- Tell your own story: Of why you started gardening, a huge problem you had and how you solved it (using the garden?), a profound lesson you have learned along the way, etc. This is a powerful feature to include in a presentation, but don’t forget about social media posts, too. Write your story in a post or a “micro blog” ( a longer than typical post) and include one powerful image or use this as a way to introduce yourself periodically.
- Include a hero and a nemesis: This age-old technique uses conflict between the story’s hero and their rival/nemesis/enemy, typically ending in triumph at the end. The enemy could be a garden pest, the rival could be a neighbor who didn’t initially support growing veggies in the front yard, the nemesis could be a disease/injury/condition that changed the way the hero lived/gardened/found happiness.
- Use images: Great Garden Speaker David E. Perry calls himself a “visual storyteller,” and uses his photography to create stories. Do yourself a favor and attend one of David’s presentations to experience how he does this. He never reads off of text on a slide, and expertly and seamlessly rolls through evocative images while he is speaking. If you’re using this technique on Instagram, for example, choose 5 images for your post that “tell a story” and then be descriptive in your caption.
- Have a positive takeaway: It could be funny, touching, educational, but make it positive and memorable. What’s the lesson learned? What problem does the story solve for the listener?
- Think like a Budweiser or Superbowl commercial: Those commercials are famous for telling stories that make people think, cry, laugh, or feel nostalgic/wistful/grateful/happy, and they often don’t even use words. Remember the Budweiser commercial about the lost puppy? Without a single word spoken, Budweiser crafts a tale of the importance of friends having your back. Whether you’re using words or not, remember that the most effective stories make people feel something.
- Vary your rate of speech and volume: Monotonous is anything but exciting and riveting, so be sure to carefully and deliberately vary your rate of speech and your volume. Don’t be overly dramatic (insert eyeball roll) but don’t shy away from letting your emotions show, either.
- Keep it concise: Take your time but don’t linger with your story—there’s a fine line between building tension and boring people to tears after 20 minutes.
- Invite listeners to imagine: You’re taking them along for a ride, so get them using their own imaginations. Paint a picture for them or use words to help them paint their own picture.
- Practice, practice, practice: While you don’t want to sound “rehearsed,” tripping over your words breaks the audience’s attention. Practice it enough so that you don’t need notes and your delivery is effective.
- Develop details: If you’re too straightforward, you’re using narrative to explain a situation, but when you use descriptive details, you create a story that the audience can hop into. Include details about what you were wearing, what the weather was like, how you felt, the colors you saw, anything involving the senses (scent, taste, touch, sound, etc.). These are details that remind the listener of something that they can relate to, sometimes even imagining themselves in your story.