Stories are meant to be shared. But sometimes we do things that do not help us to share our stories in a compelling way. You will find below the four things you should not do when sharing a story.
Why we share stories
Before mentioning the four things you are not supposed to do when sharing a story, let’s remind ourselves of the purpose of a story. A story, is a collective action. It is meant for an audience and it is our gesture of kindness towards our audience. As much as the story is about us or is ours, we share it with one goal in mind: to reach our audience.
And it does look like a prescriptive way of defining storytelling. So let’s look at it through an example: a young person asks you to tell a family story. It is your story but you are happy to give it away to them so that:
- They can learn
- They feel listened to
- They can reflect
Now, when you are sharing the family story with the young person, you want to make sure they can follow it, they understand it. So you won’t use a language, a reference, expressions that they don’t understand. Because your story is now for them.
Storytelling is about adapting a story so that it is of service for your audience. And when you adapt that story, you want to make sure to pass the message.
Four things you shouldn’t do when sharing a story
1- Air quotes and quotation marks
I use air quotes a lot when speaking to my family members and it didn’t occur to me how exclusive it can be for an outsider. But I once conducted a focus group to test the content of one of my clients’ websites. And all of the participants complained about the quotations marks saying: “it’s like they are talking about something that we are supposed to get, but we don’t”. Use your quotation marks wisely, ideally when quoting someone rather than when meaning something else. And even air quotes, you have to use them only if you know your audience will understand them. Otherwise, you are not letting them in but out of your story.
2- Open too many chapters
Telling a story can sometimes be intimidating and to overcome this, we use procrastination techniques. One of them is opening many chapters. Basically, we start our story with ONE thought and before we finish it we open another thought and before we finish that thought we start another one, and another one … and in the end we get lost, the audience is lost (or worst, bored) and you have missed the chance to share a great story.
3- Quiz your audience
Asking questions to your audience can be a successful way to engage them, and many storytellers have done it during TEDx Talks for instance. However, asking them a simple question is very different from quizzing them. I once attended a work presentation where a person started asking their colleagues if they knew the answers to some work-related questions. Needless to say with the audience being a group of introvert feeling under the spotlight, the speaker received no answer at all. Remember that you are not the teacher in a school room. You are at the same level of your audience and every question should be considered carefully.
Not breathing when sharing a story is simply bad for your body: you do need oxygen. But also, a lot of the time, when people stop breathing, they also start running and speaking too fast. Needless to say, this does not serve your audience because at the very least, they need to be able to listen to you.
So there you go, four things to avoid doing when sharing a story. Have you caught yourself doing any of them? Hurray! We can confirm you are human, so don’t worry. Instead, give me a call and we’ll work on reversing these bad habits.