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Storytelling Tips and Oral Storytelling

Updated on September 15, 2020
Tusitala Tom profile image

The writer has been speaking to audiences for over fifty years and telling stories to audiences for almost that long.

I am a Master Storyteller

Where the power lies

Apart from a personal experience, nothing affects us more than a story. We can read a story and that has its effect. We can watch a movie and, if it is graphic enough, it can move us even more. But by far the most effective means of reaching another's heart with a story is 'face-to-face in the same room.' The reason for this is difficult to define. It is also an 'intangible something' which cannot be scientifically measured. At least, as far as I know it cannot. Yet we know that we can be aroused, uplifted, moved to laughter and tears far more easily than by any other means. There is an energy. It can be almost palpable if the speaker is good enough, the story is good enough, and the audience willingly enough to go along with the story - and usually they do. So learn Storytelling. That is where the power lies.

Entertainment is the key to oral storytelling, so tell entertaining stories.

The writer at sixty
The writer at sixty

The size of one's audience is not important. How you connect is the thing

I have told stories to audiences as small as five to as many as 500 - More! Over 700 people were registered at one conference at which I was a speaker. The main thing is you have to win an audience over early - within the first 30 or 40 seconds. And the best way to do this is to open with a story.

The writer in storytelling mode
The writer in storytelling mode

Tell them entertaining stories

Entertainment is the key in oral storytelling. If your stories entertain, the informative and persuasive elements in them will also be remembered. So if your want your workshop, educational, or conference keynote to be really effective, build it around an entertaining story.

In public speaking, nothing is more effective in arousing emotions than a story. So use an entertaining story to make your point. If the story’s point is made strong enough, statistics, data, and facts are almost superfluous- people will remember a yarn long after all the rest has faded from memory.

You think not? I’ll bet you can still remember ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears,’ and ‘Jack and the Beanstalk,’ and the “Three Little Pigs,” to this day. Stories stay! They seem to get right down into our molecular structure.

Also, remember that stories told at ‘first hand’ are those which a granted most credibility by a listener. So tell stories from your personal experience wherever you can.

The Nostalgic Factor

Use those stories in which your audience has a shared experience wherever you can. I call this the “Nostalgic Factor.” For example, if your audience lived through World War Two, tell them stories from that era. If they are teenagers, tell them stories from your own teenage years. Empathy unlocks resistance.


To create instant drama, use short, punchy sentences of no more than eight or nine words; monosyllablic words if possible. But don’t keep this up for too long, for it will lose its effect. To create feelings of tranquility, long, rambling sentences are the go.

Just as newspaper headlines must grab the reader’s attention at a glance, so a public speaker, trainer, workshop presenter must capture the listener’s attention within the first ninety seconds. If they do not, it is often an uphill battle from thereon. Even if you only say, “Once upon a time…” and continue on from there, you’ll have ‘em hooked. So start with an entertaining story wherever you can.

Storytelling Tips - Oral Storytelling by Storytellers.

Ability at storytelling- how do you get it? Develop ‘Story Language.’ Read fiction, descriptive short stories, novels, poetry. From these you will absorb colourful words into your everyday oral vocabulary.

In presenting your entertaining stories go for stories that grab you.

Don’t use a story unless it has personal appeal to you. If it grabs you, moves you, then, told well, it will grab and move your audience. If it’s something you sort of feel duty-bound to do but really don’t want to…then don’t.

Avoid using visual aids such as white boards, projectors and the like when storytelling. Don’t break your audience’s inner picturing by showing them something physical. Let their minds do the interpretation from your words. Also, the less inhibited you are, the more easily you will fall into natural gesture and movement. Don’t strive for effect. Let it happen. In storytelling, the idea is to sort of fade into the background as you lead the audience’s imagination.

As in a joke’s punch line, the end of an entertaining story should bring it to its conclusion. No explanation should be needed. The story should stand by itself. If the last sentence can complete it- good. If the final word does it- excellent. Further embellishment is not required.

Finally, in storytelling as in golf – if you want to get good at it- practice, practice, practice!

I hope you enjoyed Storytelling Tips - Oral Storytelling by Storytellers.

Keep smiling



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