How to level up your storytelling skills (with exercises)

Storytelling is the most effective technique for creating strong interpersonal connections. A good storyteller can express ideas or situations in a thoughtful, engaging way that resonates with others. Storytelling can also help you and your customers establish a mutual understanding of your company’s mission.

Are you looking for ways to develop your storytelling talent? Read on to learn essential techniques and exercises to try.

How to improve your storytelling skills

Humans are empathetic and emotional creatures. As Maya Angelou said so well, people don’t remember what you say, but they remember how you make them feel. Storytelling is one of the best ways to influence someone’s feelings.

Ultimately, storytelling is about connecting with other people. Observing the situation is how you determine which story will make your audience feel you’re listening to their needs and validating them.

With that in mind, here’s how to upgrade your storytelling skills:

1. Practice, practice, practice (the right way)

When it comes to practicing, how do you know how to improve? Yes, you can ask for advice – but who you’re asking is what matters most.

If you need advice about a broken pipe in your kitchen, it would probably be best to ask a plumber – not your accountant. Similarly, you wouldn’t ask your plumber for financial advice.
When it comes to getting feedback on your storytelling skills, asking your work colleagues is best. They know your company’s vision and mission, and they share its interests and goals.

Your work peers are also much more objective than, for example, your friends and family. Your loved ones might tell you you’re doing really well just because they care about you and don’t want to hurt your feelings. That’s not helpful and won’t enable you to improve your storytelling techniques.

Practice your story in front of one team member to begin with. This prevents that person from being influenced by other people. Then, practice in front of a few more people and ask them to write down their comments, including what they liked and what could be improved.

Ask your team to rate your abilities based on the story’s content and your delivery. How you deliver your story matters a lot because it’s easier to connect with someone who speaks confidently using vocal tone, variation and body language. Encourage your team to provide specific suggestions both on verbal and non-verbal communication.

You’ll hopefully start noticing some common suggestions, showing you what to focus on and how to improve your storytelling.

2. Be an active listener

How well do you listen? Active listening isn’t just about sitting in a chair staring at the person speaking and nodding your head occasionally. It’s when you hear what someone is saying and tune into their thoughts and feelings.

There are three levels of listening:

  • At a cognitive level, you listen to the information and content.
  • At an emotional level, you are being compassionate and empathic. You feel what the speaker feels.
  • At a behavioral level, you are interested in and understand what the speaker is saying verbally and non-verbally.

A speaker feels valued when you actively listen to them, as you are giving them your undivided attention. In practice, pay attention to your body language. Smile, slightly nod your head and lean forward. Don’t interrupt the speaker.

Reaffirm you have heard the speaker’s story with a statement like, “I see what you mean,” or, “I understand where you’re coming from.”

Another demonstration of active listening is summarizing what the speaker has said.

Practicing active listening allows you to become a better listener overall, and your customers will appreciate that.

3. Evaluate your story

Check if your content contains all the elements of an effective story before sharing it publicly.

  • Who is your audience? Craft a story for them. Have your audience in mind and talk to them specifically.
  • What is your core message? In other words, what is the takeaway you want your audience to leave with?
  • Why is your story relatable? Add value to your story by adding facts or tips, and make sure your customer can learn from it.
  • Have you provided a strong call to action? Always end your story by asking the customer to do something. This prevents them from simply leaving and moving on. Instead, they leave remembering you and your story. Give them a simple action, like joining a community, going online to get a free gift or booking a call with you.

4. What’s your “why”?

Sharing your “why” is a storytelling technique that will captivate your audience.

Share your “why” in your story, preferably at the beginning. What made you set up your business? What makes you so passionate about it?

Share your feelings and emotions. People don’t remember what you say, but they will remember how you make them feel. Adding emotion to your presentation will help people relate to you and connect with you.

Never-ending, long stories without a clear point are boring and often unhelpful. Your customers don’t like to waste their time. They should know why your company exists and why its content is relevant to them within seconds.

5. Align with your audience

Remember, your audience is your customer. Align your language with them.

If your audience includes business people, use professional language and jargon they understand. If you’re talking to parents, use examples in your story that resonate with parents. When talking to kids in school, use simple words that they understand.

Companies with customer-focused methods are 60% more profitable compared to those that aren’t. Meanwhile, 66% of customers expect brands to fully understand their needs, even before they buy from you. All you need to do is listen to your audience and make them feel recognized. Your story shouldn’t just focus on your business, but rather on the ways you can help them. Forget features and focus on benefits.

6. Show your passion

Your energy is influential. You can hardly expect your customers to believe in your message if you don’t believe in it yourself.

Look at your product or service from a consumer’s perspective when selling it. Step into their shoes. Consider how the product or service has helped you in your personal life. Explain why you would genuinely recommend it to your friends and family.

7. Share your expertise

If possible, showcase your knowledge of the product or service firsthand with a demonstration.

69% of customers prefer learning about a product through instructional videos. A live demonstration is even better because it enhances the storytelling experience. It also enables you to answer any customer questions on the spot.

Ultimately, a customer who can see firsthand how a certain product can improve their life will make a swift purchase more confidently.

8. Address objections

Dive into your client’s mind before they even get a chance to address objections. When you handle objections upfront, you avoid questions and prove you know your customer well.

Always listen to the customer’s side of the story. Read all their comments and take note of the words they use frequently when talking to you.

Show you are interested in their experiences and struggles, and make it clear that you can help. Meet each of their problems with a thoughtful, relevant solution.

9. Be relatable

Be relatable by using a conversational voice. Talk to your customer as you would a friend.

Customers can struggle to connect with someone who acts as if they are in a position of authority. Keep yourself humble and your story personal when you’re expressing ideas to your audience. Don’t just state the story’s facts; emphasize why it’s relatable to your audience with specific examples.

Be vulnerable, and don’t be afraid to share struggles and challenges. Be a human being, just like your customer, and when they feel that connection, they’ll be happy to continue listening to you.

10. Listen to your customers

Customer feedback through comments, critiques or testimonials proves your story was engaging. Don’t be afraid to take that input and use it to make your story even more compelling.

The customer will feel appreciated when you enhance your storytelling skills, so it’s a win–win!

Exercises to improve storytelling

Now you know the essential components of good storytelling, you can elevate your skills by:

  • creating test mission statements to determine which would have the strongest impact,
  • practicing oral presentations in front of the mirror or your colleagues,
  • rehearsing your tone of voice and body language when communicating,
  • challenging yourself by creating stories with different hypothetical prompts and audiences, and
  • using the Storyteller Tactics Card Deck to help you create the most meaningful, captivating stories and presentations that will make people remember you.

FAQs

What is the key to good storytelling?

Good storytellers are enthusiastic and genuine. Don’t just speak: practice active listening when your clients talk and use it to form meaningful responses. Always remember that storytelling aims to build others up and bridge communication gaps.

Is storytelling a soft skill?

Yes! You can use storytelling in the workplace to craft meaningful mission statements and communicate ideas to your team during strategic meetings. You must be able to establish why your mission is important if you want your employees to feel motivated.

Storytelling also enables you to empathize with customers, inspiring loyalty and encouraging them to choose your brand above the rest.

Why is storytelling an important life skill?

Stories appeal to our senses and emotions, drawing people’s attention more easily. Storytelling is an effective way to leave a lasting impact on the audience.

Being able to communicate compelling stories will strengthen your relationships with customers, employees, and even your friends. Fighting burnout and accomplishing mutual goals faster is much easier when people feel connected. That’s why storytelling is such a valuable skill to use in both your personal and professional lives.


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