So what does it take to be a great storyteller? The fundamentals are pretty simple.

° Curiosity. Bernice Fitz-Gibbon, who not only produced innovative ad copy, but also trained many successful copywriters, wrote, “I have never known anyone who bounced out of bed in the morning, delighted and astonished by the world in which he found himself, who was not a success. A vibrantly alive curiosity  will put you right up there with the best of them. This intense interest in people and things—this sense of wonder—can be acquired.” 

Without curiosity, you’ll miss all the good stories happening around you that might be put to work on your behalf.

 ° Attention. TV  journalist Steve Hartman  created a popular feature on CBS called “Everyone Has a Story.” He began looking for his subject by throwing a dart at a map. Then he’d go to wherever the dart landed, open the local phone book and pick a name at random. Some of the stories were funny, some poignant, some  buried deep, but he never came away empty-handed. 

Hartman’s premise is that stories exist everywhere, but only storytellers seem to be paying attention. Follow their lead. Listen for inspiration. Listen for evidence. Listen for material. When someone says, “Your teleclass was so exciting that I was awake until 3 AM with all these new ideas,” use it.

 ° Edit.  Editing is critical in all forms of storytelling. The difference between a boring and an enthralling storyteller is in the editing. We all know people who start telling a story and then wander off to side stories about the characters or unrelated events or random thoughts.

So what does an editor really do? According to Sarah Tieck, the job of an editor is to ruthlessly look for what’s relevant and then eliminate the rest. In many ways, editing uses the same skills as are needed to identify priorities in the goal-setting process. 

°  Bring it alive.  Don’t you just marvel at all the ways chef Jamie Oliver describes food? That’s what a great storyteller does. Passion and a good vocabulary are the fuel.

Except for Prairie Home Companion, there’s not much storytelling in radio anymore. If you listen to Garrison Keillor—a master storyteller—you’ll hear how he adds just enough detail so we can imagine the scene. 

In marketing, part of the storyteller’s job is to help the audience of potential customers imagine how products or services will be useful to them. Storytelling can do that more vividly than just listing benefits.

°  Watch your audience. Bores do not notice their listeners fidgeting in their seats or gazing around the room looking for an escape. Alas, the self-absorbed among us are oblivious to this. A good storyteller, on the other hand, understands body language and looks for clues. After all, storytelling always involves at least two people: the teller and the listener. Both are important. 

Polishing your storytelling skills can be as good for your business as it is for your social life. If  you’re ready to make your marketing creative, fun and memorable by becoming a better storyteller, join me and Alice Barry at our upcoming Compelling Storytelling event on December 2-4 in Las Vegas. Special Early Bird pricing ends on October 25th.


Marketing is the act of telling stories about the things we make—stories that sell and stories that spread. ~ Seth Godin