The other night, my wife I were discussing what the kids should wear for picture day the next morning when we asked our seven-year-old Caroline what she thought of the top her mother had selected. She took one look at it, shook her head and said “Hillary Clinton.”
Not knowing what that meant, I asked her and she told me “ I don’t know, I just hear you guys say that…” As I laughed hysterically, I was reminded just how important context can be.
Let me really honest for a second, this story isn’t a great story. No heroics happened, it wasn’t life changing and it doesn’t follow the hero’s journey, but it was humorous and allowed me to make a point.
Great communication is about great storytelling. One of the few absolutes about public speaking is that in order to be truly effective, you have to be able to tell a compelling story. Stories are the secret sauce that makes our facts and digestible and our points memorable.
It has become widely accepted that storytelling is crucial to success in communication. Any book about leadership, sales or persuasion will tell you it’s importance, but few will tell you how to find and develop those stories. I use a couple of guidelines that works really well and I wanted to share them with you.
Step 1. Capture Everything
The biggest reason that most people don’t have a large story file is that they’re waiting for big and momentous events to happen in their lives to use as stories. They want “the time I climbed Everest” or “the time I cured Cancer” stories and so the wait. First of all, the chances of these “big life moments” happening to us, are slim, but more importantly, we miss the small and mundane stories that can work to make a larger point. Capture everything. Don’t edit, just capture those little moments. The can be paired down and edited later, but only if you have it.
Step 2. Look For Relatable Experiences
The great thing about those small moments that make them such powerful stories is that when we use something that happens to everyone, they relate much stronger to them.
After you capture a story, find the ones that others can relate to. The story that started this post, small as it may be, was relatable to anyone that’s been inundated with the 2016 election, anyone that’s been a parent and anyone that’s been confused. In general, it works because anyone can relate to it.
Step 3. Look For Humor
Humor is such a valuable tool because we laugh relax and when we relax, we learn. Humor is also a key component to getting an audience to like you. Jokes never work and not every story is funny which means finding humor is hard work.
I like to find stories that have the hint of humor in them and then embellish and dramatize them until they’re funny. Everything in the above story really happened, but by adding a couple of details such as the headshake, make it stand out to be funny.
The stories that make our lives are everywhere. We simply have to record them, make them relatable and find their humor. When we do, finding the right story becomes a matter of simply looking through a file.