The art of storytelling is in the telling

My wife and I made a point to see Oscar-nominated films before the Oscars. That was before we had kids. Now, we’re pretty much limited to the Best Animated Feature category. But we did manage to see “Up In The Air.”

As you probably know, George Clooney plays a character who’s a consultant traveling around the nation to lay people off. He incorporates this brief pep talk into his repertoire:

Later, his protégée delivers the same line, but this time, it’s robotic and pointless.

The art of storytelling is in the telling. Maybe you’ve got a great story. A customer testimonial that will knock a prospect’s socks off. But if you don’t tell it well, who cares?

This is something I’ve been working at since I got married – my mother-in-law helped me realize it. My problem is that I tell a story once, and that’s it. I lose my gusto after that. I start skipping the details and deliver the punch line way too soon. But my mother-in-law… she can tell the same story 9, 13, or 27 times, and it loses nothing! If anything, she gains momentum each time. When she tells stories, she nails the behavioral skills around eye communication and energy – facial expression, vocal variety, and gestures (note an unfair advantage: she is Italian).

Whether it’s the first time or the tenth, deliver the story well. On the content side, don’t skimp on the details: describe the pain, celebrate the success. Then bring the content together with the behavior. Show and tell how the lead character (whether it’s you or someone else) felt at that moment.