Are you ever trying to tell what you believe is a fascinating story, and it totally bombs? No one laughs at your funny anecdotes, no one’s eyes bulge in bewilderment as you reach the punchline, and everyone returns to normal conversation as soon as the story ends, as if it never even happened? Worse, people lose interest mid story, and you have to awkwardly mumble off as you realize that no one is listening to you?
Riveting storytelling is a powerful tool for building riveting conversation. It creates connection between you and your audience, allowing them to better understand who you are. If you can tell a captivating story, people will be captivated by you.
An otherwise enthralling story can fall flat if told incorrectly. In order to do proper justice to your incredible experiences, here are 5 tips you can incorporate into your stories that will hypnotize your audience.
Hook their interest before you begin
There are few things more awkward than beginning a story and realizing that no one is listening. That’s why it’s important to be sure that you have your audience’s full attention before you even start.
To do this, tease your audience with a hook that makes your story something they can’t resist listening to. Sell your story before you tell it. Peak their interest with an introduction such as “the last time I went to the beach, I thought my sister had been eaten by a shark.” With a statement like this, people will be begging you to tell your story, instead of you begging people to listen.
So what exactly makes a good hook?
Hook ‘em with mystery
The best types of hooks are those that are shrouded in mystery. Statements such as the one given above peak people’s curiosity. There are so many questions that it provokes. Why did you think your sister was eaten by a shark? Is your sister okay? What kind of shark was it? What happened to the shark?
The key is to not spoil the punchline until the very end. Your hook should, simply put, leave your audience hanging. Decide what makes your story captivating, and don’t satisfy your audience with the most important answers until the very end.
Raise the stakes of the situation
Master storytellers are able to turn the most mundane of experiences into a rollercoaster of emotions. Excitement is created when the stakes are high. Tell your audience what is at stake in this story. Using the example of the shark again, saying that you saw a shark at the beach one time is interesting, but isn’t necessarily exciting. Saying that you believed your sister was eaten by a shark puts something drastic at stake: your sister’s life. Your audience will be much more invested in learning the outcome of this event.
Give appropriate background information
Sometimes it takes so long to get to the point of a story that we don’t even care how it ends, we just want it to be over with. But it’s important to provide enough context so that the audience is not confused and can fully appreciate the story being told. That’s why it is important to give relevant details that enhance the storytelling experience.
Let’s say you are telling a story about a friend who is often clumsy. If you tell a story about this friend falling on their face, the situation is much more humorous if you already understand the awkwardness of this person. Giving background on the characters involved gives people the appropriate context to appreciate the humor of the situation.
The expressions you use while you tell a story will indicate to your audience how you felt in that moment and, more importantly, how they should feel as they hear it. Telling a story with a straight face is much less exciting than telling a story where you display your own emotions. It can also help to use voices as you portray different characters in the story. Emphasize certain words, change the speed at which you speak to keep your audience’s attention.
Like any other skill, the best way to get better at storytelling is to practice. Practice sharing the same story to different audiences. Notice what gets a reaction and what does not. Observe when a joke gets a big laugh or when it fails to get more than a chuckle. Tweak your stories so that when you really want to make a good impression, you have an arsenal of anecdotal stories to satisfy any conversation.
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