Improve your public speaking through storytelling, part 1

February 9, 2012 by Joshua
in Art, Blog, Creativity, Tips

Want to improve one of the most important skills for any field, almost free? Want to hook and engage anyone you communicate with?

Tell a story.

Everyone knows it, but it bears repeating. All communication can benefit from having it tell a story. Whether you’re pitching a product, pitching your company, answering a question in a job interview, talking to a friend, flirting on a date, or anything, humans love stories. I posted earlier on how to structure stories effectively (I only need to remember “CCSG”).

Besides structure, you need to tell the story. Your voice, body language, pacing, and so on matter. How do you tell better stories? The same way you do anything better.


How do you practice?

One simple, free way is to get people together to tell stories to each other. Years ago I organized a group of five or ten friends to tell stories to each other, criticize each other’s storytelling, and improve.

A simple, almost free, bigger way is through an organization called The Moth, which grew from a circle of friends into a nationwide series of storytelling events where ten people — anyone who volunteers to put their name into a hat — tell five-minute stories on a theme to an audience of hundreds. Three random groups judge and the winner gets maybe a t-shirt or nothing.

Wait, isn’t being judged telling a story in front of hundreds of strangers scary?

Damn straight!

That’s why good storytellers stand out. They have to overcome their fears to build their experience. I’m writing this post for having overcome my fears to tell my first story at the Moth. Tomorrow I’ll write about it.

Good storytellers don’t just stand out. They make more sales, get more job offers, get more second dates, have more friends, and so on.

You can start smaller, more intimate, and without the judging by organizing your friends. The Moth audience supports the storytellers wholeheartedly despite the judging, but you still feel judged, which makes you nervous. Still, any storytelling experience will improve all your communication skills.

From its site:

Since its launch in 1997, The Moth has presented thousands of stories, told live and without notes, to standing-room-only crowds worldwide.

Moth shows are renowned for the great range of human experience they showcase. Each show starts with a theme, and the storytellers explore it, often in unexpected ways. Since each story is true and every voice authentic, the shows dance between documentary and theater, creating a unique, intimate, and often enlightening experience for the audience.

Moth stories dissolve socio-economic barriers, expose vulnerabilities, and quietly suggest ways to overcome challenges and see with new eyes.

Why The Moth?
Ask George Dawes Green, the poet and best-selling novelist who is the Founder of The Moth. George wanted to recreate, in New York, the feeling of sultry summer evenings in his native Georgia, where he and his friends would gather on his friend Wanda’s porch to share spellbinding tales. There was a hole in the screen which let in moths that were attracted to the light, and the group started calling themselves The Moths. The first New York Moth event was held in George’s living room, but word spread fast, and the events soon moved to cafes and clubs throughout the city. Audiences are drawn to the stories, like moths to a flame.

EDIT: check out my next storytelling experience, in video.

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6 responses on “Improve your public speaking through storytelling, part 1

  1. Pingback: Improve your public speaking through storytelling, part 2 | Joshua Spodek

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