Stories are powerful. When speaking, you can hold an audience’s attention if you tell a great story. Yet, we’ve all heard speakers tell stories that make you want to poke your eyes out with a pencil as they are SO boring! 

So… how do we find the right story and tell it in a way that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats? Here’s 7 tips on how to tell a great story.

1. A great story doesn’t have to be a major life event. Anything can be a story if it has these two components:

- A hero in the story who WANTS SOMETHING. It can be as simple as, “I want to get my dry cleaning…” “I want to find some quiet…” But, unless you have a character with desire – you don’t have a story.

- The main character has to come across OBSTACLES that get in the way of what he or she wants.  Obstacles can be physical, such as traffic, weather, or people. And, obstacles can be internal, such as low self-esteem, fear, or spitting while you talk.

2. To make stories more dynamic, always tell your stories in present tense. "There I AM..." is more immediate than "There I WAS..."

3. Add laughs to your story by acting out ALL the characters in your story, including people, animals, and even giving voice to inanimate objects. Rather than NARRATING your story, such as, “…And then my mother told me to get my hair out of my eyes.” ACT-OUT your mother by standing like her and pretending she is speaking to you, such as, “Judy… get your hair out of your eyes!”  You can even get a laugh by giving voice to a chair, “Oh no! Here comes another butt!”

4. Dramatize your story by accentuating emotional moments. When you come to an emotional moment in a story, slow time down by acting out the character’s stream of thoughts in short staccato sentences, "OMG! What? Really? OMG! OMG! What to do! Oh no! "

5. Deepen the importance of the story by relating it to your past. Sometimes when we get emotional in day-to-day life, it's because a subconscious childhood memory is being triggered. Look at an emotional moments in your story and ask yourself, "When in my childhood did I feel this way?" If your story is about someone disappointing you, ask yourself, “When in my past did someone disappoint me?” This is how we connect present day stories to our past to create life lessons. This then becomes a goose-bump moment for the audience.

6. Mange your movement. Do not pace when telling a story as it can have a hypnotic effect on the audience making them nod off as well as making you appear nervous. Movement is great when it’s deliberate, such as when you act-out a character, walk to a different part of the stage when you end a story, or walk to speak to a different part of the audience. But, make movement a conscious choice. It's not a tennis match, it's a speech.

7. End your story with lessons learned and give your audience a takeaway. Takeaways can be tips on how your listeners can integrate your message into their lives.

If you want to spend the weekend working on YOUR STORIES and COMEDY, Judy Carter is holding a workshop in Vancouver, Jan. 24-25. Click here for more details!

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