Storytelling for Speakers

Stories are the speaker’s most powerful communication tool, but how does storytelling work? Why do some stories connect while others don’t? I share the answers in the video from my February, 2020 workshop on storytelling and in the text below.

When I was a young man still in college, I found myself—quite through happenstance—in the company of an odd band of folks who lived aboard their sailboats in the free anchorage in Miami. The stories they told about harrowing adventures in faraway places captured my interest. Up until that time, I’d been a private prep-school student headed toward some sort of advanced degree and the career that followed, but when I realized that stories of adventure at sea were not just the stuff of books and movies, I resolved to find stories of my own. Thus began my storytelling journey.

Stories inspired me, and the secret floating village of Miami’s Dinner Key anchorage was a storybook Steinbeck himself would have envied. I took notes and photographs and began to develop my “story consciousness.” I didn’t know exactly what stories were, but I made it my business to look for them. My first big realization was that no matter how grandiose the setting or how severe the storm, stories are always about people. This is the golden rule of storytelling. Put colorful people in a colorful setting and give them colorful things to do, and you’ve got stories to tell. Take away the people and you’ve got nothing. If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one around to hear, does it make a sound? No.

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