Every Sunday eyes close and heads bow. Oh that they were praying. But no, their repose is a regular reminder that in addition to being faithful, the sermon needs to be engaging. Storytelling is a great tool to accomplish the latter.
A listener has only so much capacity for ‘facts and figures’ after which they will need time to process. Storytelling broadcasts on a different frequency and can be received by listeners who otherwise might be saturated with doctrine and data. Plus, well-told stories activate the listener’s brain in ways that the facts don’t. This activation leads to identification, emotional responsiveness and the resolve to act. Now that is engagement!
Here are five ways to improve storytelling.
Tell stories for the audience
Any story is not a good story. Any story will not enhancement people’s engagement. A critical question to ask yourself is whether the audience will be able to relate to the story and identify with some of the characters. When the story is a personal anecdote it is important to root out self-promotion. The story is for the benefit of the crowd, not the storyteller.
Tell a story, don’t recount events
Good stories have built-in tension. There is a problem to solve, an obstacle to overcome, a relationship to mend, a lesson to learn. That tension can be totally obscured if the story is presented following the structure: this happened, then this happened and then…. Instead put the chronology on hold and ask if there is a better way to relay what happened so that the audience is invited to participate in the inherent tension of the story.
Tell one story not “War and Peace”
Life is complex, full of all kinds of minutia and manure. That doesn’t mean our stories should try to capture it all. Think of the telling a story like shining a spotlight on a character in a particular scene. There is more to the drama for sure, but we are intentionally highlighting one aspect of the greater whole.
Tell a story that you like
Not all the stories we tell are going to be personal ones. We may be telling a story that belongs to one of the people we serve. We might use a story from current events, literature, movies or even another presentation. Whatever the source, we as the speaker need to engage with it. We need to see value in sharing it. If the story we are telling doesn’t have meaning to us, doesn’t move us, then it’s not going to do much for our audience.
Tell a story for a purpose
There are more great stories out there then we will ever have time to fit into our presentation. We need to pick stories because they help advance the main idea we are seeking to communicate. A well-told story ends with resolution to the inherent tension. A lesson was learned, a relationship was mended, a truth was discovered. The resolution should aligns well with our key message, possibly serving as an introduction, or illustration or segue to a call to action.
What is one key thing that you would highlight regarding telling stories?