From our earliest years, stories have been used to teach us lessons, transport us to other worlds and inspire our best ideas. In a world full of information and creativity, the art of storytelling is no longer reserved for bestselling novels and blockbuster movies. They can be found in viral videos, marketing campaigns, motivational speeches and presentations, as a way of engaging an audience through a medium that we’re all familiar with -an interesting, relatable and gripping narrative.
So, what are the best ways of effectively telling your story?
Regularly used in books and movies, the monomyth story structure tells the story of a hero. The hero leaves their comfort zone and faces great threats before emerging through the other side with valuable wisdom.
Using the monomyth technique to tell your story will enable your audience to see exactly how you gained your knowledge via a familiar structure. It can also be used to place a potential customer in the hero’s position, allowing them to see why they need what you’re offering them.
Most often seen in TV series, the mountain is the perfect storytelling technique for building tension. Unlike the monomyth, the mountain doesn’t always have a happy ending, but it does make for a gripped audience.
Start by setting the scene and build on the story by slowly describing small challenges that the hero overcomes. It should end on a big climax, where something important is learned either via a warning or a thought-provoking, ambiguous ending.
In medias res
Stories that start in the middle of an action-packed scene or dramatic moment before explaining how things happened use the in medias res storytelling technique. It’s a very effective way of pulling an audience in immediately because they’ll want to know how the opening event came to be.
The key to getting in medias res right is to give just enough information at the start, so that the audience is intrigued without giving the game up right away. It’s ideal for short speeches or presentations because it keeps the focus on one important event and keeps the audience engaged on how it occurred.
When three or more stories are layered together, they become nested loops. Imagine a friend telling you a story about how they learned a lesson. The lesson would be the core story, the friend’s story would be the first loop and the person they learned the lesson from would be the second loop.
In the nested loops storytelling technique, the final story to be resolved is the one containing the core message. This shows your audience how the message they’re receiving relates to other stories and enhances its relevance.
Similar to the nested loops structure, the converging ideas technique illustrates how different thoughts came together to form the same idea. Unlike the nested loops technique, all of the stories are equally important for coming up with the conclusion.
Converging Ideas storytelling is popular when explaining how a co-founded brand or notion came about. It often features real human connections that help the audience relate to the story and stay engaged.
If you want to make an audience sit up and listen to what you have to say, the False Start storytelling technique is highly effective. It might seem like you’re about to tell a very predictable story but then something will steer it off course and right back to the beginning.
The False Start is perfect for talking about mistakes and what was learned from them. It breaks your audience’s sense of security and draws more attention to the real focus of the story.
Perhaps the most famous speech of all, Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream draws on the Sparklines storytelling technique. Sparklines stories show the stark difference between reality and what an ideal reality could be.
It’s a highly emotive, effective way of getting the audience to focus on the problems and injustices of the world and inspires them to want to change it.
Not dissimilar to the Nested Loops and Converging Ideas techniques, the petal storytelling structure sees multiple stories relating the same message. Think of your main idea or message as the centre of the flower and the petals as several unrelated, complete stories that eventually return to the centre.
The petal stories become a growing body of evidence to support your main idea and therefore gradually recruit the trust and support of the audience. This gives greater weight to your message and allows it to linger in your audience’s minds for longer.
Your story matters
Stories are everywhere and there are so many ways to tell them. Whatever your aims and storytelling medium are, there is an ideal technique to adopt that will gain maximum impact from your audience and ensure that your story is heard.