During an evening event at the British Library, I was once asked to introduce myself and here is what I said:
“Hey, I’m Beatrice and I work as a communication consultant and storytelling coach.”
It took me half a second and that’s what I wanted. Because I didn’t want to take too much time and “space” and to be honest because even after all these years I sometimes shy away and think my story is not that interesting. There’s nothing surprising about it.
But then the host of the event, who knows me, said:
“C’mon don’t sell yourself short. I’ve seen your Instagram feed, you do more than that. Go again!”
And I did.
“Hey, I’m Beatrice and I work as a communication consultant and storytelling coach.
Which means I design and deliver communication trainings for people doing good so that they can market in an effective, authentic way and be seen by the right audience.
But I also work one-on-one with female early stage entrepreneurs with a minority background to help them get their stories out. Because I have been through it and I believe that by telling our stories, we can change the world.”
Is my story surprising enough?
Please don’t tell me I’m the only one who has felt at least once, that her story wasn’t interesting nor surprising. Because facts tell me otherwise.
The surprising fact about storytelling is that people who actually have a story to tell, often underestimate how important and surprising their story can be.
And part of the reason is that we are raised thinking storytelling is something that professionals maybe writers, actresses or creative do. And of course you can and should master the art of storytelling. But also keep in mind fictional storytelling and factual storytelling are two distinct things and the way they can surprise an audience is different as well.
What does it mean to surprise through storytelling?
One of the lessons I have learned from TV writer and producer Shonda Rhymes is that if you want to wow people with storytelling, you have to surprise them with the most unexpected outcome. That’s easier to be done in the fictional world.
When Shonda wants to give a shake to Grey’s Anatomy, she asks herself:
“what’s the worst thing that can happen now?”
And she makes it happen, in the middle of a calm, apparently not problematic storyline.
And this move, makes us go:
“Oh wow, did that just happen?”
The surprising elements in storytelling: fiction vs reality
In his TED talk, Pixar Founder Andrew Stanton says that in order to build the wow effect in your story, you have to build a climax, a crescendo, an ascending storyline followed by the punchline.
While this works well with films and fiction in general, adapting these methods to your own storytelling might feel overwhelming. It might feel like you have to learn a whole new set of storytelling skills to impress people. But that’s not the case.
Instead, what you need to do is acknowledging the fact that your story is very much surprising without the punchlines, the crescendos, and the unexpected outcomes.
5 Ways Your Story Will Surprise People
Here is the simple truth about surprising stories: it’s not always about how you tell the story. The surprises come from the fact you actually share the story and from the story itself. The fact you that you have the courage to hold the microphone and share your story, will surprise people in at least five ways:
I had no idea you went through that!
When you are sharing a piece of you, your audience will go “wow” because they start learning something new about you. They connect, feel closer and start trusting you more.
Oh gosh, this happened to me as well!
One of the most powerful things about taking the stand and sharing your story is that you start creating a community. Your audience relates with what you share and understand why you get them.
I really needed to hear these words
This is one of my favourite. Because it happens often when I share a piece of story on social media. Sometimes I get no skyrocketing number of views or comments or likes. Except from the one that says that’s exactly what they needed to hear. Sharing a piece of your story surprise people because you tell them the right words at the right time. That day, you save them.
Thanks for sharing that, you’re so brave
Trust me when I say that’s “brave” is not a compliment to you but a call to action for whoever says it. When people are so surprised by your bravery is because they are also inspired by it and are empowered to do the same. And can you imagine if all the unheard voices started sharing more of their stories? It would change the world.
Wow, is this how you did it?
Surprising through a story sometimes simply means sharing ideas your audience haven’t thought about before. In a way, you’re teaching but also offering solutions. Which, I’m telling you, it’s priceless.
You want to surprise? Tell a story
If you read between the lines, you’ll notice a pattern in the five ways your story surprises people. All the surprised exclamations are one variations of “I now feel I know you better” and “if you did, I can too”.
Stories connect us to one another but they also inspire us. They bring us closer and help us find solutions. And that’s the ultimate goal of storytelling.
That’s the whole reason why I share pieces of my story on my newsletter and why I’m writing a book.
Leave a comment sharing the three moments when you were surprised by someone sharing their story.