We know that storytelling is an essential trait of great leaders (see Clemson Turregano’s article Storytelling as a Leader’s Art for example), but actually being a solid storyteller takes practice. Given that the moments leaders most need to deliver awesome anecdotes are also often the ones when they absolutely cannot tank, practice is clearly essential.
Luckily, the holiday party time of year has arrived and provides a perfect place to experiment. Offering fresh narratives to the usual stale questions keeps our spirits jolly while honing our story telling talents.
Consider these simple guidelines (true for parties or meetings) before unleashing your inner Hemingway:
- Know the Audience: People will pay more attention if they can relate to the tale. Listeners like to be included and feel like they know what’s up. Even when a story starts way out in left field, we have to be sure to bring it back to our listeners.
- Thanks for Asking: Beginning a storied response by acknowledging or appreciating the inquiry is engaging (“Oh, that’s a great question….”). A little praise perks up listeners’ ears and locks them in on whatever happens next.
- Pants On Fire: Remember, the goal is to share information in the form of a story, not to lie or fabricate. Creatively crafting a story provides a unique experience for the listener without misrepresenting the truth. When someone asks “What do you do?”, lead up to the answer by providing background on your interests, passions, how you came to do what you do, etc. This is much more engaging than blurting out “Designer”.
- Keep it Short: Short stories can be powerful: consider Hemingway’s “For sale: baby shoes, never worn”. Remember that our attention is under siege, distractions are rampant and there is elegance in simplicity.
Flex those story telling muscles this holiday season and feel good about working on your leadership skills while recreating around the punch bowl.