Day 9: The Art of Storytelling

Everyone Has A Story

Podcast: The James Altucher Show

Author: James Altucher

Episode 249: Chris Anderson: TED  - Tricks to Mastering Public Speaking and Storytelling

I grew up listening to bedtime stories, read by my father. Sometimes it was a hero on a mission, or a protagonist that befalls misfortune. Sometimes it ended happily ever after or left unresolved. These stories fascinated me. I wanted to be a great storyteller. 

In this podcast, James Altucher and Chris Anderson discuss the elements of a story and why storytelling is a relevant skill. One of the first points they make is that everyone has a story. 

Stories are meant to be entertaining and amusing, but the true gift of a story is to share an idea. In early days, human beings communicated dangerous plants, places to avoid, or lessons learned. A story without lesson or idea behind it, is simply recounting events. Those events may be entertaining, but they do no justice to the audience. The first step then is to think about what idea you wish to share. 

When we learn new information, it changes our brains creating new neural pathways. One of the best ways to ensure someone interprets our information, instead of ignoring it, is to ask a question. Questions are interactive and engage our brain the same way playing a video game holds our attention more than a newspaper. Catching and holding someone's attention is a requirement before you can share your story. Aim to capture attention early.

Lastly, build on your audience's current state of knowledge. Meeting technicians, I find that too often they either over-generalize their jobs or nerd out. I don't know anything about systems architecture, but if you say you design virtual worlds using coding, then I can wrap my head around that concept. It's difficult for us to imagine what it was like to not know, what we know (the "curse of knowledge"). Being able to gauge your audience's current knowledge base is important so you can tailor the message to their current state. Once you know where they're starting from, you can built up to where they can accept your idea. 

To recap:

1) Stories need to share an idea

2) Captivate the audience's attention early and hold it. 

3) Tailor the story to the audience's knowledge base so you can guide them toward your idea. 

Stories are not just for campfires. Writing a memo, giving a sales pitch, or snapchatting your day are all forms of storytelling. Next time you post, think for a moment, what idea are you sharing?