10 Ways To Become A Better Storyteller

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(By Tim O’Brien) Even if your podcast is not considered a storytelling podcast, regardless of your genre, most podcast listeners tune in to hear stories. Whether you do a true-crime podcast, a self-help podcast, or a comedy show, listeners love a good story.

And if it’s not your story, it’s the stories your guests have to tell.

Either way, your job as the podcaster is to bring it out. With this in mind, here are 10 ways to become a better storyteller:

  1. Start at the beginning – Don’t assume your listener knows the circumstances, who is involved, or the implications. Set the stage as though your listener is totally new to you, the subject, and your podcast.
  2. Know your ending before you start – Don’t ramble and get halfway through your story without knowing where you want to take it. Is there a lesson, a conclusion, or a moral to your story? In other words, what’s the point of the story? It could be serious, or it could just be to get a laugh, but know this before you start.
  3. Who are the characters in your story? – A good story is about people. Who is involved? What are their roles? Who is affected? Who did what you might expect and who didn’t?
  4. What’s the setting? – It’s important to let listeners know where the story took place, when it happened, and why it happened. This gives them context and helps them relate.
  5. Is there a conflict? – Some of the best stories involved some form of tension. If something is at stake — like concern over being embarrassed or fired — that will further help listeners connect to you and your story.
  6. How did you deal with it at first? – If you were a part of the story, the listener wants to know how you dealt with events as they unfolded. They want to put themselves in your shoes.
  7. How did you overcome it (if you did)? – The audience also wants to know how things turned out for you and if you did what you hoped to do.
  8. What were you thinking? – When you tell listeners what was going through your mind as the story unfolds, you invite them to more fully invest themselves in the story.
  9. Did anyone say anything surprising, funny, provocative, or memorable? – This is the color that makes a story great, unique, and memorable, and it is derived from those things you didn’t expect, or the things people said or the way they reacted. Think about what you remember best about the story and don’t leave it out.
  10. What was the outcome? – No story is complete without resolution. How did things turn out? Good, bad, or otherwise; listeners need to know.

Tim O’Brien is the producer and host of the Shaping Opinion podcast and the founder of the Pittsburgh-based communications consultancy O’Brien Communications.  He can be reached at 412.854.8845 or timobrien@timobrienpr.com.

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