Storytelling Tips by Paul Aflalo

June 4, 2019

Most (if not all) changemakers are driven by something they’ve experienced personally, whether it is something that happened to them, or something they witnessed. It is the driving force behind what motivates them. This is the story you want to share!

Sharing your personal story (the journey that lead you to what you are doing and why) will help you illustrate and share your message in a unique and engaging way. It will help you stand out in the very short period of time you have to pitch your project, organization or social initiative.

Writing and editing your story

The first thing you want to do is write out your full story. To help you do that, here are some helpful tips:

  1. Stories are moments - a piece of your life. Start by choosing the moment you want to share, and then write out the answers to the following: When did it happen? Where did it happen? Who was there, and how are they part of your story? (These are your characters) What happened, and how did it all unfold?
  2. Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning of your story sets up where you are, and who else is there. The beginning also includes the hook of your story, which is a moment that grabs the audience’s attention, and pulls them in to wanting to know more! (Example: “It was a cold night, the wind was strong, and shaking the windows in my room, and all of a sudden the power went out. I couldn’t see a thing…”). The middle is the heart of your story - this is where you share, in order, everything that happened. The end is the lesson learned, and the reason why you're doing the work you're doing
  3. Only include the details that are important to the story. You want to keep your story short and concise.
  4. The length of seven to ten minute story is usually three to five pages written out, double spaced.
  5. Get Feedback: have someone else read your story when you're done. Feedback is such an important part of the process, but always remember this is your story.

One very important rule: never ever start your story by saying what your story is going to be about. For example: “I’m going to share a story about the time I fell of my bike and broke my ankle.” By doing this, you’ve already told your whole story.

Performing and sharing your story

Some people like to memorize their story, others will remember key moments in your story. They are both great ways to help you remember your story, one is not better than the other. This is a personal choice – in fact, you might have your own way of remembering your story and that’s great too!

  1. Rehearse your story: tell your friends, your family, and people you work with.
  2. More Feedback: ask for people's thoughts and ideas on your story. This is so important, but also remember that in the end the final decisions are yours! You know your story better than anyone.
  3. Performing your story: Make eye contact with your audience (even if it’s just one person). When you’re on a stage, stand or sit up straight. This will help you with confidence. Take your time, and don’t rush through it. It’s okay to be nervous, it’s okay to show emotion, and it’s okay to be human.

Sometimes you might not be ready to share your story. Some moments from our past need time for us to process them, understand them, and fully cope with them. There’s no time limit on how long this will take, and that’s okay. Make sure you’re ready to share your story, when you are ready.

Storytelling is a great tool; it is something each and everyone one of us does every single day. Remember that this is your story, and there is a reason why you need to share it. Now, take the steps to share it the best way possible!

Here’s a great story from Montreal based writer, performer, and professional storyteller Nisha Coleman: