People assume this is a mistake in storytelling. But it’s an asset.

Movie_Quiz

LET’S DO A FUN MOVIE QUIZ!!!!!

I know you know this!

Guess the movie based on my short story version:

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Can’t think of a story relevant to your topic? Try this.

She stood looking at me expectantly, waiting for an answer, grinning. I was gobsmacked. As – I assume – were the other people standing around us, witnessing her question. Well, I thought. THIS is unprecedented.     A couple of months ago, I was two hours outside of Toronto, running a workshop on storytelling. As always,…

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The pinnacle of my radio career

I stood, nervously playing with the corner of Jim’s desk. Below me, he was on the phone. He pointed at the receiver and mouthed, ‘One minute’. Lips pressed together, I smiled and gave a quick nod. Anxiety tugged at my stomach. What if he doesn’t say yes? Jim was the events organiser at Xfm, the…

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Having a rough week? And/or: Are a lady? This one’s for you

If you’re in a hurry, scan down, because that first 5 lines of Wild Geese might be something you really, really need to hear today.

Before then – a short, excellent story along with something that’ll make you want to punch the air and take to the streets. Seriously, it’s one of the best things you’ve ever heard.

It’s national poetry month, so here are two of my favourites.

1. A big hero of mine, one of the most charismatic, articulate and smart…

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However bad things get, you’ll ALWAYS have this

It’s a bit of a wonder I’ve survived.

Last Friday evening, I sat in the cavernous hallway of a room that had built in 1933, underneath a giant gold mosaic, and cried…

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One of the greatest moments of the last four years.

“I hear what you’re saying.”

He pressed his lips together, and squinted a little in suspicion. “But why? Isn’t that just Misery Porn?”

I was working with my friend Chris on a story he was going to tell at my live show. Chris (who I’ve written about before, here and here) is one of my favourite storytellers of all time, and I’d been excited to sit down with him.

The story is about him reading to his dying mother in hospital. He’d done a version of it at another storytelling show a few weeks before – and there, had played the whole thing for laughs.

As we sat down and talked through the story, I convinced him to pull in the sadness of the situation. To mire us in the grief that he felt, before the funny reveal comes.

Now, he was asking why.

One of the things…

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Teaching new ideas that people sometimes resist? Try this!

“So guys,” he said, from the front of the large room. “Try this, and you can get to the root of your issue.”

I was on a table right down at the back, so he couldn’t see me rolling my eyes. Jaw set in fury, I looked down at my paper.

It was the Sunday before last, I was at a business retreat, and I was very, very angry.

This year, I’m in a group program, run by Jonathan “Good Life Project” Fields. I’ve been following him for years, and he’s always steered me right. Under his guidance, my business went from doing okaaaaayyy to suddenly making a living doing the thing I’m best at and most enjoy. Working with him again seemed like a good idea.

On this afternoon, 70 other people and I were in a session led by productivity coach, Charlie Gilkey. I’ve hung out with Charlie before – just that morning, he’d been telling me about his recent trip to Hawaii. We get on well and I really like him. I know a lot of people who’ve been coached by him to wild success. He’s a charismatic, clear and powerful speaker.

But, right now, I was cross with him. Furious, actually. Seething.

Or – to be clearer, I wasn’t so much angry with him, as with what he was asking me to do…

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Want to build trust, connection, influence and loyalty? Use THIS in stories. (Science!)

“My stomach was in a tight knot as I walked up to the front door.”

If you want people to really care about your stories, and be inspired to take action, there’s one element you MUST include… and yet, I see people leave it out all of the time.

What is this magic bullet?

EMOTION.

Consider the difference between these two stories:

‘I walked up to the front door.
For thirty seconds, nothing happened.
Then, the door opened, and Sally appeared. I took a deep breath, and said, “Hello.”’

Now, read this one:

‘My stomach was in a tight knot as I walked up to the front door.
For thirty seconds, nothing happened.
I started panicking. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, I thought. Maybe I should stay out of it.
Then, the door opened, and Sally appeared, smiling. Nervously, I took a deep breath, and said, “Hello.”’

Which story do you care more about? Which one makes you want to keep reading? Which has the strongest effect on you?

I’m guessing it’s the second one. The difference between the two?

In the second, I told you how I FEEL.

Emotions make your story more powerful for five reasons:

(1) We invest in your story
In the second version above, did you wonder WHY I was so nervous – and what might be about to happen?

Telling us how you feel builds tension in a story. Suddenly, there are high stakes, that might not otherwise exist. Researcher Paul Zak discovered that tension is an essential ingredient to keeping us interested in a story.

(2) We trust you more
Have you ever got nervous…

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When your cab journey gets very serious, very quickly

“But that sounds nice! No?” I asked, holding onto the handrail as the cab turned a corner.

I couldn’t see much of the driver’s face. One of the small glass windows was slid open, and through it, I looked at his eyes in the rearview mirror.

He glanced at me and shook his head.

“Nah,” he said, in his South London accent. “It’s pathetic.”…

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Telling a story in just one minute

We sat in the lobby of the conference hall. Janne had told me I could be brutal. “I’m Dutch”, she’d said, “I can take it!” But now, I wondered if I’d gone too far.

And then, she burst into tears.

“Oh my goodness!” I cried. “I’m so sorry!”

“It’s ok!” she said, smiling. “It’s a hard thing to do this, because it’s important to me that I get it right. But it’s ok.”

I’m the Storytelling Coach at the Portland conference World Domination Summit (think less Lex Luther, more do-gooders, trying to make the world a better place). Each year, Attendee Storytellers are invited to go onstage and share their stories.

This summer, hundreds of people applied on Saturday morning to tell a story. On Saturday afternoon, Jolie (the conference’s “Fixer and Voice of Reason”) and I combed through the entries, chose five.

Then, I had just half an hour with each, to pull the story out, and figure out they could tell it in one minute. A process I’d usually spend two or three hours with each person for.

Janne’s story was particularly tough, because she wanted to talk about…

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