How to Tell a Great Story in 4 Simple Steps

Telling a good story is like taking a good photograph.

In a photo, you have to think about what’s going to be included in the shot and where the focus is going to be. It’s the same concept when telling a story. We suggest 4 storytelling guidelines to help us tell powerful stories that inspire generosity.

1. The first thing we need to do is FOCUS on a specific incident.

We focus by telling people in our first sentence when, where, and who the story is about.

If your story is about a time when you were having a Bible study with a new believer, then start by sharing something like, “A few weeks ago, Beth and I were sitting at my kitchen table studying The Gospel of John...”

The focus of my story is… 

When: a couple of weeks ago

Where: around my kitchen table

Who: Beth and I

Choosing a very specific incident, as well as including The When, Where, and Who allows the listener to visualize where the story is beginning. Then they can follow the whole story much more easily!

2. The second step is to CROP the story to the right length.

Experience has taught us that when telling a verbal story, two minutes is often the right length. As you begin meeting people and telling them your stories, you may find that the right length varies slightly. But as best as you can, try to keep it right around two minutes.

But, if we only have two minutes, we need to think about what details we will include in the story, as well as the details we need to leave out in order to help people see what we are focusing on.

3. The next step of telling a good story is to DEVELOP a good ending line.

Before a pilot takes off in a plane, he always knows where he is going to land. What can happen if we haven’t thought about where we will land at the end of our story?

·      We just keep rambling

·      Our listeners will be confused as to when the story is over

·      We might draw several conclusions and lose the impact of the story

Before we even begin the story, we want to develop a good ending line, so we know where to land. For example, it might be something like…

“At the end of our study, Beth immediately went to tell her family about her new-found faith in Jesus.”

Or, “Once held captive by the sexual abuse in her past, Julie immediately found freedom, purpose, and fulfillment in her new relationship with Jesus and His Church.”

My favorite thing about developing a good ending line is that it gives me confidence. I know that at almost any point in the story, if I want to stop, I can just use my ending line. This especially helps me when I share stories in front of groups of people.

4. The final thing we want to do is to use COLOR.

When you’ve taken a photo on your phone, you have the ability to add a filter to it. The filters don’t change the content of the photo, but merely give it flavor!

It’s the same when telling a story. Adding a filter to your story is about making the story more vibrant. You can do this by using the five senses: What did you see? Hear? Smell? Taste? Feel? Choose your words in such a way that you are painting a picture for the person listening.

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