Soon we’ll be gathering with family and friends at Thanksgiving. And no holiday meal is complete without hot food and memorable stories. “Do you remember the time…” kicks off an endless series of childhood stories, family legends and embarrassing tales from the past.
Every family has one person who can captivate the room with colorful stories that make you laugh, cry or feel very uncomfortable. In my family, my father takes the storytelling cake. No one can match his skills when it comes to recreating visions of his Grandma Sally (who knew all the neighborhood gossip), his uncle who got sucked up into a tornado while riding on a horse, or the day he drove his new 1957 DeSoto sedan home from the car dealership (and taught himself how to drive a car on that first solo trip behind the wheel).
But you don’t have to have the gift of gab of a Daddy Gist (my father) to be a great storyteller. If you can tell a joke, explain why you like or dislike a movie or recall—in some detail—a sporting event or past experience, then you can tell a story to a friend, co-worker or meeting audience. The storytelling skills are the same (use descriptive words that make your listeners visualize what you’re talking about). If you are talking to an audience of one or 1,000, paint a word picture that lets them hear, see, feel, smell and get a taste for everything that went on.
I recently heard Mark Brown, the 1995 Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking, talk about storytelling. Mark (he is in the photo with me) said that every life tells a story and there’s always a message you can share. During the recent Toastmasters International conference in Daytona Beach, FL, he identified three ways to find stories to share with family, friends or business associates. Mark says:
1. MINE FAMILY STORIES – Keep your ears open at family events. During the holidays, family reunions or at the dinner table, someone is always telling a funny story.
2. USE POP CULTURE – Explain the impact that a movie, book or blog post had on you. “It’s all about lessons learned…and what you can share,” said Mark.
3. RETELL YOUR LIFE LESSONS – Everyone has had some experience that knocked some sense into our heads. Share what you’ve learned the hard way from your biggest mistakes. “Your life tells a story and there’s always a message that someone out there needs to hear. Sometimes a lesson we learned can be valuable and powerful to someone else,” said Mark. “You have no idea the impact you can have by sharing one simple story!”