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5 Tips To Help You Become A Great Storyteller

5 Tips To Help You Become A Great Storyteller

Think of the last presentation you went to that knocked you over. I mean really knocked you over, made you sit up, and left you entranced — even as the speaker went over their allotted time or perhaps had the odd stumble.

For me, this was a little shy of two months ago. It was supposed to be one hour and the session took almost two — and no one got up to leave. We were all mesmerized, not solely by the content but the speaker as well. Don’t get me wrong, the content was great, but midway through the presentation, I found myself wondering if the content would have stood on its own without this great speaker. To some extent, it probably would, but the delivery of that message, that story is what transformed it into something new and different that stayed with me.

So, how did they do it? How did this person deliver such a compelling presentation that they entranced over 200 people with ease?

They told a story. From beginning to end, they told a story that resonated with everyone. Maybe not from the beginning, but by the end we all knew it front and back. Over time, we will forget the slide deck and perhaps the speaker, but that message and emotion will never be forgotten.

Since then, I’ve been approaching many of my presentations as stories instead of sticking with the status quo. It’s not easy, and it takes a little longer to prepare for, but the results and engagement from the crowd are worth every extra piece of effort.

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Here are five tips to help you become that presenter that wows everyone in the room.

Who is your audience?

Whether you are writing or presenting, this question must always be first. Who is your audience — who are you doing this for? Take a moment and think about that.

If I am doing a presentation on podcasting, I will approach it very differently depending on if I’m presenting it to a group of software developers, a group of managers, or a group of kids. With developers, I might focus on how they need to transfer the code on their screen to the voice in their mic. With a group of managers, it might be more about the message they are trying to get across. With the kids, it would be about engagement — “Here, try this.” My content might be similar, but how I deliver this information will be quite different.

Not knowing who you are presenting to is a guaranteed fail. You will see it, you will know it when you look around the room mid-sentence and see the eyes glazing over. At that moment, you will know that what you are delivering is not aligned with your audience.

Find a Theme

Having a theme is often overlooked when doing a presentation, but when telling a story it is key. A theme is the feeling or emotion you want to get across to your audience and resonate with them. The theme is the combination of your ideas and messages, and it creates the structure for your story.

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To go back to our podcasting example, my theme for delivering to kids would be heavy on examples, engagement, fun, laughter, and enjoyment to engage them. For managers, I might focus on how they can find an audience right here and grow their culture by developing leaders of influence. The managers probably won’t rate hearing their voice as important to do, but the children will.

Pace

The best stories we have ever heard have that moment of connection where we are sold — we want more, we sit up in our chair, and we listen a little more intently. This is not by chance, this is by pace. This is because the storyteller took us down a path laid with breadcrumbs for us to pick up along the way in the hopes that we’d join them on this journey. If the storyteller simply started with that “aha” moment, we wouldn’t have had the reveal we needed — we would not have been invested. Worse yet, if this moment never came, what then? We’d be left wondering why we were even there to begin with, what we were truly investing by giving this person our precious time.

Still unsure about pace? Think back to all those keynotes that Steve Jobs did for Apple where he became famous for “One last thing” in his presentations.  That wasn’t by chance, it was on purpose. It was part of his story, and each time we came back to hear the next story, we waited with baited breath to hear this line.

Get the Right Tools

Remember those speakers that wave their hands around the whole time as they speak or have to constantly go to their laptop to fix something? Or maybe their demos require a lot of manual control and them staring down at the screen?

You probably don’t remember their names, but you remember what they did. These are distractions to your audience. These are distractions to your theme that reduce the effectiveness of your story.

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Again, think back to the best presentations you have heard. What was so great about them? Was it the deck? Their tablet? Did they demo something amazing? You might be thinking “Oh yeah, they had a powerpoint deck, but come to think of it, I never saw them look at it or reference it.” Exactly. Your tools complement the story and enhance it — they don’t become part of it. If you are having to read off your deck, then send out your deck to your audience because that’s your story. Small things, like a presentation pointer, can greatly enhance your presentation because now people are focussing on you, your words, your theme, your pace, and not you bending over to hit the spacebar.

Yes, you might have to spend some money on tools and hacks to be a better storyteller, but if you are able to get your message across in a single session, isn’t it worth it?

Call to Action

Don’t you love the presenter who ends with “Well, that’s it.”? No conclusion, no end to what should be there, no final sign off — the slides go blank as if they did not know the last slide was even coming up. As we said before, being a great storyteller involves pacing the audience so you don’t need to draw them a map of when you are going to finish. Rather, they can infer this information, they can see it evolving, they know when it is going to get there.

But there is more to it. Your audience, the people you spent so much time crafting this message for, what is their call to action? What do you want them to do next?

In our example of a podcast, I want my audience to go start a podcast. Why else would I be telling them how to do it? Otherwise, I’ve just wasted their time and mine. And this is key — the call to action isn’t solely for the audience, it is for the speaker as well. Only once a member of the audience has taken that call and turned it into action has the story now been completed. Actions are what drive stories, not debates, not further discussion — action. So if you are not challenging your audience on what to do next, what are you trying to get across to them?

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Speakers, Presenters, Orators, whatever term you like to use, the ones who stand out, the ones we remember, are the ones that crafted a story, a story that resonated with us, a story that spoke to us, and a story that made us want to go do something.

Next time you need to deliver a presentation, whether it’s last quarter’s budget numbers or next year’s fall fashions, don’t deliver it as a presentation. Deliver it as a story and see the difference — you’ll be amazed.

Featured photo credit: pixabay.com via pixabay.com

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Greg Thomas

Software Architect

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Last Updated on August 21, 2018

15 Signs You’re an Old Soul and Think Differently

15 Signs You’re an Old Soul and Think Differently

If you’ve often felt slightly removed from the worries of today and miss the simplistic life of a time gone by, or somehow feel a little out of sync with what your peers are concerned with, there’s a chance you may be an old soul.

Being an old soul refers to how you view and approach life.

Your views echo those of someone much older than you, who has lived a long and fruitful life. You approach life with a greater sense of knowledge and wisdom coupled with a greater sense of inner wealth.

If you’ve ever met an exasperated 10 year old saying, “Kids today are so…”, or a 28 year old who says, “In my day…”, an awful lot, chances are you’re in the presence of a beautiful old soul. They’re often perplexed, and unable to relate to the things people their own age consider fun, or important, and so feel out of place.

They look at life through a vignette of experiences they may not have lived, yet, but somehow, just seem to know.

So if you’ve ever felt like you’ve lived before, and you have a wealth of wisdom you can’t explain, chances are you have been reincarnated—

—or maybe, you’re just an old soul!

Here are some tell-tale signs to help you find out if you’re an old soul.

1. You know there’s another way to do things.

You often say things like, “I have a feeling this will work”, or “there’s no harm in trying.” People may view your suggestions as outdated or done, but you know that sometimes, just sometimes, the tried and tested ways of doing things are best. Hey, if it ain’t broke…

You feel that not all problems require a new and innovative solution, and going round in circles when the answer may be staring you in the face is usually a waste of valuable time, and energy.

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You have no problem trying out new things, but know, too, that oldies can also be goodies.

2. You give advice well beyond your years.

You somehow seem to know how to do things you haven’t even done yourself yet. It’s like you’ve lived before, and just know how it all works. People often look at you with that “how do you know?” expression, and you respond with a confident, “I just know!”

Truth is, you do just know, but don’t know how you know. Those people who come to you for advice, though somewhat freaked out by your amazing prophetic powers to impressively offer solutions and predict outcomes, trust you wholeheartedly and don’t doubt your authenticity.

3. You like to think things through.

Even the most impatient of people will need to think things through if they are an old soul at heart. You need that time to maul it over in your head.

It’s an important part of your to-do process, and it enables you to move forward in the direction most in sync with your mind, body and soul.

To you, not being able to think things through, even a little, leaves you feeling uneasy, and that does nothing to help.

4. You don’t waste time asking why.

After you’ve thought things through, you move ahead, confident in the knowledge that you’ve done all you needed to do to get going.

You don’t waste time in trying to justify it to yourself or anyone else. You have little time and patience for the nonsensical and would prefer to utilize your time getting things done, rather than sitting around talking about getting things done.

In the end, you understand that whatever you do, you trust that all things work out just as they are supposed to, and you don’t want to question that wonderful process.

5. You don’t like to go out just for the sake of going out.

It’s quality over quantity for you. You love to go out and have fun, but going out because others feel it is required, or you look boring if you don’t, holds no merit for you.

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When you go out, you’d like to experience something; something that resonates with your way of perceiving the world and challenges you.

You’ll happily spend money on those things that give you wonderful experiences and broaden your horizons. Going out just because, seems pointless to you; you’d rather save your time, and money, and do something of quality.

6. You have an appreciation for old literature.

You respect the classics. You’re often found getting euphorically high off old books. You’ve probably sniffed a good few old books in your time, and you don’t care who sees.

For you, old literature should be respected and valued; they hold history and historical experience between their pages and deserve to be exalted.

7. You have old ears.

You love and appreciate the classics and have a longing for the musicality of those nostalgic tunes. Your record (that’s right, record!) collection looks like a retro music store. Probably only 10% of your collection consists of what you refer to as “nowadays” music, the rest are from decades gone by.

You know only a handful of today’s artists, and that’s only because you haven’t heard an album yet to rival your favorite Grateful Dead album, or your favorite Frank Sinatra track.

You don’t go out of your way to avoid modern music, it just doesn’t seem to whet your appetite. So you’ll happily pump your beloved Janis Joplin or Nat King Cole all the way home. Heaven!

8. You see no need in being unnecessarily stressed.

You don’t invite drama just because it makes you feel alive, no, you’d much prefer to live without it.

You appreciate the quiet, and invite peace. It’s become apparent to you that the world views stress and busyness as being productive.

But you know that being productive has nothing to do with being crazy busy or stressed, but everything to do with how well you utilize your time.

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So you’re mindful about what you spend your hours doing, and make sure your doing something worthwhile, and not just keeping busy for busy sake.

9. You love to meet new people.

To you, talking to people is enriching and adds to your experience of the world. This isn’t because you just can’t help chit chatting, but more so because you are genuinely fascinated by those you share this planet with, who can offer different perspectives.

You love being able to swap stories with people you’ve only just met. Plus, it also serves to make those trips to the bank all the more interesting!

10. You value deep connections.

For you, it’s all about quality over quantity. You require a deeper connection with those around you in order to feel any connection at all.

Half-hearted friendships, surface-level relationships and fly-by-night hook-ups are not your thing. You value the essence of deeper friendships and long lasting relationships, as you give yourself wholly to them, too.

11. You love learning.

Nothing gets you going more than learning more about yourself, other people and the world around you.

For you learning is growth, and growth is part of life. As an old soul, you approach learning from the understanding that it doesn’t have to lead anywhere, for example, a degree or certificate.

Sure, those things are great and offer a sense of accomplishment, but for you it’s the act of learning something new and wonderful that motivates you, not the initials after your name!

12. You don’t see the fuss about the latest craze.

Following others just to fit in? Where’s the fun in that? To you, being a style chaser or tech follower is something you can never quite get your head around.

Sure you may even own a Kindle or you may have an iPad, but now they sit there, gathering dust, because you miss the feel (and smell) or the real thing, and computer works just fine.

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You don’t really care whether you’re an early adopter or a late comer. None of the things defines you, and you’re okay with that.

13. You value the company of those much older than you.

You want to drink in their wisdom and you hang on their every word as they tell you stories of their youth. You laugh at their accounts of old trends, and cry at the war stories, you reminisce with them about long lost loves, and actually listen to their pearls of wisdom.

At a time when we seem to have less and less time for the more mature among us, the old soul has nothing but time to give. That’s because you appreciate what they have to share, and let’s be honest, you secretly wish for a time when life seemed so simple.

14. You are the epitome of calm.

You are the steadfast one, the one neither swayed, nor toppled, even in a crisis. You probably say things like, “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast,” and tell people to “Get a grip!”

To everyone else, you appear disconnected, but to those who know you well, you’re actually hard at work, you just work differently.

You’ve learned that nothing actually gets done if everyone is running around losing their heads; someone needs to be the calm force. This is just how you make sense of what is happening.

You stop. Wait. Listen. Then decide what steps to take next.

15. You truly understand what it means to give.

To you, there’s no better way to live, than to give.

Giving your time, or money or those things you simply have no need for is the most rewarding thing anyone can do with their short time on earth. It isn’t an ego thing, far from it.

For you, giving is the purest act of love. Plus, you see no point in holding on to things you cant take with you, so you’re more than happy to travel light!

Featured photo credit: Portrait of fashionable well dressed man with beard posing outdoors looking away, confident and focused mature man in coat standing outside at sunny evening, elegant fashion model via shutterstock.com

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