by Paul Kaye
January 23, 2018
Now Let Me Tell You A Story…
The best content has always originated from stories. Words are simply words unless they are used to tell a narrative. Words come alive with meaning when they are part of a well-crafted and well-told story. Great communication really is the simple exchange of stories; listening to and telling stories to one another. Stories are powerful because they have the ability to stick in our minds and leave a lasting impression long after the story has been told. A well-delivered story has the power to transport us to places we’ve never been to before. A well-crafted story has the power to make us experience things we’ve never experienced before.
If you want to be successful in radio you need to master the ability to tell captivating stories. Sounds simple right? Think less about being an entertainer and more about being a master storyteller. Stories help people connect; there’s no better way to fuse you to an audience than to share your stories.
The best stories come from your own experience. Sharing a story that you’ve heard previously, have been told by someone else or that you have dreamt up often fails to resonate with an audience due to your disconnect from the story. That disconnect comes when the audience can’t feel your emotional connection to the narrative. When you tell a story from your own experiences the emotion is naturally there. As you recount your experience you stimulate part of the mind that adds colour, detail and feelings without you really trying or really knowing that you’re doing it; your mind helps you paint a vivid picture with your words. A story that isn’t your own can’t be told with the same level of engagement and authenticity. If you want your story to stand a chance of being heard then it must be your story in the first place.
The stories you tell don’t have to be extravagant. In fact the best stories are usually simple, ordinary stories. Stories are at their most powerful when the person being told the story can imagine himself or herself inside the story. While we might not all be brave individuals hearing a story of courage makes us feel like we too would be brave in that situation. Audiences want to resonate with the story you are telling. The more ‘everyday’ your story the better the chance you have of hitting on emotions that the audience can relate to.
When you have a story in mind that you want to share there you need to make sure you tell it well. No one wants to listen through a boring story. Actually, in our time starved worlds today no one will listen through a boring story. The good news is that it isn’t hard to tell a good story, you just need to follow a few simple steps.
Start by setting the scene very clearly. In the very first sentence or two you need to establish what the story is about. You need to offer the audience the context behind the story. Your story is not going to be heard if you don’t quickly help the audience understand the situation that is about to unfold. What is the story about? Where does it begin? Why should they care? What will compel them to want to listen to what happens next? You need to start as close to the action as you can. “Let me tell you about the strangest thing I ever woke up next to.”
Move toward action. First you need to establish the scene, now you need to start describing what transpired. You need to describe with the relevant detail what happened? The event or the series of events in your story now need to start unfolding. Think of this as you delivering the play by play part of your story.
Know where the story culminates. Nothing kills a story quicker than missing the ending… and carrying on. Often we think we’re in the flow of telling a good story, the audience seem captivated so we decide to add more and more. Eventually the story seems to lose momentum and the audience quickly loses interest. That’s because there can only be one climax to the tale. The story culminates at the end of the action.
Notice the simple formula. 3 Stages. The Start (what is about to happen), the Middle (describe what did happened) and the End (what is the climax or moral of the story). It’s a simple structure but you’d be surprised at how few people seem to be able to master it.
There is a one technique that we share with personalities that really improves the stickiness of your story. It is a powerful and often under utilized tip. Invite the audience to participate in your story. You find a pivotal moment in your story, and then you ask the audience what they would do. “There was a weird scraping noise coming from just beyond the door. Getting louder and more chilling with every long drawn out scrraaaaape. Something was there in the darkness. My heart was thumping. If you were me, what would you do next?” Ask the audience to be part of the story. Ask questions that are open ended of them “what do you think I found there?” “Can you imagine the look on her face?” Once the audience participates in the story, they are hooked. They are invested and need to know what will happen next. They want to know if you would do, think or say the same as you. They want to know if their assumptions and/or predictions are correct.
And one final thing to keep in mind is, tell the truth. A story needs to be grounded in reality. You may get away with a little creative license. You may be able to exaggerate a little here and there but lies will trip you up. The audience can tell. Its something to do with the way we’re wired, we can feel when something isn’t honest. Ask any stand up comedian and they will tell you that they will perform best when their material stems from the truth.
To be a successful radio personality you need to master the art of telling stories. Stories are the best way to share our observations, thoughts and feelings. We process and remember more information when it stimulates us emotionally, and a well told story ignites the emotional part of our brain. Successful communication requires the telling of compelling and relatable stories.
Paul Kaye is Vice President, Product and Talent Development for Rogers in Canada. Paul spends his days working with stations and talent across all formats with a sole focus on helping improve performance and growing the business. Prior to being at Rogers Paul held the role of National Talent Development Director for Newcap Radio and also a Group Programming role in England. Paul is a certified coach and is passionate about helping individuals, teams and organizations reach their greatest potential, which is the fuel behind his other project The Talent Lab. Paul lives in Toronto with his wife, 2 dogs and a cat – life is never quiet! You can reach Paul at [email protected]
Every PD should print this, and coach it. Religiously. Master it. Build your coaching model and programming philosophy around it, and then build your team with it. If every PD did this, it would lift the bar of our entire industry. Thanks for posting this one, Paul. #NailedIt.
In theory, Mr. Kaye is correct. In reality, on-air personalities lead substantially the same, boring lives as the majority of us. What movie they watched, what their kids did at soccer, what work or life experiences they’ve had are almost all the same…none of which merits boring an audience with. All one needs to do is listen to today’s drivel and ask yourself yourself ‘yeah, so’? It all begins and ends in the hiring process. Has this person lived an exploratory life, full of human contact and curiosity. Has this person thought outside his/her own personal space in travel, career, personal relationships. Unless that person has experienced life on a multitude of levels, you have a person who is too one-dementional. And that’s just the start of the hiring process. Other factors: can they read, write, connect the dots, decipher an issue, and in some cases connect themselves with the issue in a compelling way. Most programmers are nerds and deadbeats and couldn’t tell a compelling story if they had to and/or the skills required. I remember the late/great Fred Latremouille. He told the story of how he and his wife had been out for a walk when they came across a towering pine tree, so beautiful and elegant was this nature’s gift. They stopped and looked skyward, attempting to figure out how tall this tree was. Naturally, there was no way to accurately measure its height from their vantage point. As if by magic, someone listening to this story, called. A geometry professor who explained how you could accurately measure the height of a tree by standing at its best. Fred was skilled enough to know how to build the story with his natural curiosity, then allow someone else to bring the story to a climactic ending. No one in the Vancouver market currently, can match Fred’s storytelling genius. No one!
It’s fine if they live “the same, boring lives” as most of us. Their job is to relate, you dolt. You do that by connecting to common experiences. Storytelling works for the fantastic AND the mundane. I’d argue that some of the most compelling/relatable stories are routed in “regular life”.
Stop telling ppl to get off your lawn & get a life.
We’ll just have to agree that what I find compelling, interesting and entertaining, is different for you. ?