What is the difference between storytelling and storytellers and why it should matter to you?
“Are you a storyteller? Oh, how I love storytelling, especially when there’s a good story to tell. I was at a lecture the other day about tips for good storytelling.”
Heard this much during the last few months?
We need buzzwords. We love buzzwords and what could be better than ‘storytelling’?
When talking about storytelling, some might feel a little nauseous since it’s being used for everything now. It’s like the new ‘strategy’. just drop it anywhere in a meeting and you are good to go.
Come to think of it, how can you avoid using it all the time?
We are all storytellers. Some stories are great and some suck but others are really epic. We all know someone who seems like the best storyteller ever, who makes a night out, well… legendary. I own several bars in Tel-Aviv and at each of these locations it’s always been easy to spot the storyteller at every table. They aren’t necessarily the loudest or most fun person in the group, but rather the one people listen to, the one who could take the whole party on a journey just by using words.
Storytelling is about creating a world you can imagine.
Movies, novels, comics and a good myth all tell great stories that can surpass time and place. They can evolve and become better over time – some might even be timeless. During the Middle Ages they had the troubadours telling stories and singing hymns of heroism and bravery.
True storytellers are born a certain way. They develop their craft by doing it over and over, looking at their audience, learning a certain body language and sculpting the presentation it until it works. Can anyone be a storyteller? Well, if you didn’t know it already, you are a storyteller.
When you come home and tell your spouse about your day, when you talk to your colleagues at work about the new restaurant you tried last night, or when you pitch your team a new idea during a meeting, you are practicing this fundamental skill. We are all storytellers. Good or bad, well, that’s another story.
During the last few months, I started to notice that storytelling is being used more often as an empty buzzword, and I started to apologize when using it during sales meetings.
We all have a story to tell, but we need to think if we are good storytellers or just regular people who can tell a story, not caring if it’s good or bad. What do I mean by that? A good story will sell, make people imagine or keep them on the edge of their seat. An epic story will make people believe in things they have never seen, like dragons, start revolutions, or beg you to keep going.
A few days ago, I was having coffee with a friend who had just left a branding agency. Something interesting came up as we were discussing a storytelling workshop I was about to give. I love storytellers but I feel more and more like storytelling has become just another buzzword with no substance.
You see, I have written novels and people love authors. It’s quite common for someone I meet to say something like, “You wrote a book? What a dream. I would also love to one day write a book about something”, to which I always reply, “So just do it, write a book, it’s not so hard” (it’s a white lie, writing my novels was so tedious and draining but it makes for good small talk).
When we do creative, or write posts for social media, people think it’s easy because they too can write. The entry point for the craft seems easy, and the barrier low. Almost everyone can write. But can they really write?
Now, just like writing, everyone can tell a story. People think that if they can tell a story, they are true storytellers hence.
I believe the art of storytelling is engraved in our bones, the love or words, imagination, creating something out of thin air, making people feel the chills, have a tear in their eye. Anyone can do it, really, but how many can really be amazing at it?
I believe we should find the best, the ones that can actually do it, in writing or on stage or even those who can teach. But what about you? How can you improve?
1. The goal – every good story needs to know where it’s heading. Have a pitch at work? Great. Make sure you write down what your goal is and make sure you are aligned. Always check if what you wrote serves the end goal. No? take it out.
2. Length – people will read a 600-page Harry potter but would avoid a 600-word blog post. Before you write, try and put the building blocks in place. When the structure works for you, pour in the words. For long form content, I love using post-it notes on my wall.
3. Words – words create a reality but let me tell you a secret I share during my workshops. The gaps, the silence, are also a very important piece. Leave something to people’s imagination. If you tell them every small detail, nothing is left for the brain to fill, it might be too long, and people lose interest. In my session, I use a 5-word story and let the audience feel the blanks. In hundreds of sessions, I have never heard the same version twice.
You might not be a pro at storytelling, you might not love the buzzword, but you need to improve that skill.
Have any questions? Feel free to reach out.