I’ve always communicated through stories. I can’t tell you when I started, but as a natural story-teller I was probably destined to become a speechwriter—kind of like my optometrist when I was a kid was probably destined for his career. His name was Dr. Glassman.
And you see what I just did there? I told a story. A tiny one, sure. But it took us out of “I’m going to teach you something” mode and into analogy. Maybe even made you chuckle. Oh, come on, you at least smiled.
Have you ever been at a party where someone was telling a really great story? You leaned in to listen, maybe even scootched your chair closer. You didn’t want to miss a word.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the audience at your next speech felt that way? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could look up from the podium and see a roomful of faces looking at you instead of their smartphones? It could happen. A great story is so powerful it can even make people forget about checking Facebook.
So how do you find these stories? The same way you find anything: You look. Grab your equipment—stash some paper and pen in your pockets or use your smartphone’s notes app—and go live your life. When something catches your eye or makes you think, make a note of it: what happened, what thought or feeling it created in you. At the end of the day, look at your notes and see if you’ve found anything you might use as a story. It may seem mechanical and clunky at first, but your story-spotting instincts will improve with practice. And once you get better at noticing things, you won’t have to write everything down—you’ll be able to tell in the moment whether something is or isn’t story material.
When I’m driving and listening to podcasts, I use the voice activated note-taking app on my phone to “jot down” any interesting ideas I hear. But I’ve learned to sort through those ideas every day, because Siri isn’t always the most accurate stenographer. Yesterday she wrote, “Stories let us talk about our accomplishments without cracking.” Er, “bragging.”
I keep a searchable file of stories and quotations I think might come in handy. I’ve had stories sit in the file for ten years or more, but when the right opportunity to use them comes along, it’s golden.
If you’d like to read more about how I use stories, I’ve compiled some into a free e-book called What’s the Story? Just let me know where to send it.