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Storytelling: How to Tell a Great Story

Updated on August 4, 2017

Everybody loves a good story and the Nostalgia Factor always helps

Photo of the author in 1977 Tom has been a member of Toastmasters International, Rostrum Clubs of NSW, The National Speakers Assoc of Australia and...The Australian Storytellers Guild.   Here he is as an expeditioner on MacQuarie Island
Photo of the author in 1977 Tom has been a member of Toastmasters International, Rostrum Clubs of NSW, The National Speakers Assoc of Australia and...The Australian Storytellers Guild. Here he is as an expeditioner on MacQuarie Island

Storytelling - The Nostalgia Factor

On June 6th 2001, at age sixty-five, I was invited to go to the Sydney Powerhouse Museum to hear a presentation given by a man named Jack Curtiss. Curtiss, then seventy-seven years old, was still flying as a commercial pilot. The presentation had been organised by an aviation club and the audience comprised people with a wide knowledge of aviation. But that wasn’t the reason I attended. My interested stemmed from nostalgia. I had served as a Aeradio operator in Australia’s Commonwealth Department of Civil Aviation from 1960 until 1971. I hoped to be transported in my mind back to those days, and veteran pilot, Jack Curtiss, did not let me down.

Storytelling - Link Your Stories To Your Listeners Experiences

The raconteur does not only have to be a master of story telling. He has to know how to link members of the audience with the stories he tells. One of the reasons I have specialised in telling stories to retiree groups is that they usually have a strong desire to recapture ‘the days of their youth.’ Or, perhaps more accurately, the days prior to ‘middle age.’ For it seems that most of our adventures in life happen in the first thirty, maybe forty years of living and then, generally, everything becomes one long routine. It needn’t. But it often seems that way.

Sky, Rock and Water - MacQuarie Island, a bleak, inhospitable place

The writer standing beside an old winch left by the 19th Century Sealers.  Empty barrels were winched ashore; full barrels of seal oil went the other way, courtesy the ship's windlass.  Macquarie is littered with debris from the old sealing gangs.
The writer standing beside an old winch left by the 19th Century Sealers. Empty barrels were winched ashore; full barrels of seal oil went the other way, courtesy the ship's windlass. Macquarie is littered with debris from the old sealing gangs.

Part of the huge King Penguin rookery at Lusitania Bay

Those aren't pebbles down there!  That is part of the nearly half a million King Penguins on Macquarie Island.  And down at Hurd Point there are another three quarters of a million Royal Penguins.
Those aren't pebbles down there! That is part of the nearly half a million King Penguins on Macquarie Island. And down at Hurd Point there are another three quarters of a million Royal Penguins.

And in the winter on that rare clear night - the Aurora Australis

Macquarie Island has around 340 days of 365  on which there is either rain, sleet or snow, but on that rare clear night the "Southern Lights" shine shimmer and wave across the sky in a dazzling display of ever-changing colours
Macquarie Island has around 340 days of 365 on which there is either rain, sleet or snow, but on that rare clear night the "Southern Lights" shine shimmer and wave across the sky in a dazzling display of ever-changing colours

The Writer stands on a pebbly beach on Macquarie's east coast

MacQuarie's sheltered East Coast; the tall tussock reaches almost to the rock-bestrewn beach at this point.
MacQuarie's sheltered East Coast; the tall tussock reaches almost to the rock-bestrewn beach at this point.

Take them back to their own adventuring days- use the Nostalgia Factor

The reasons for a lot of the ‘adventure’ going out of our lives as we grow older are many. Firstly, we are generally repeating experiences ad neuseum by this time, rather than undertaking them for the the first few times when they were still novel. The learning curve has flattened out. The adrenaline rush has gone. Secondly, unless we’re having an affair with our neighbour’s wife, most of the risk-taking is behind us. And we’re glad it is so. We are now fairly settled. We are well into our mortgage repayments, we’ve settled into our life’s career, boring and humdrum as it may be, and we no longer wish to ‘climb mountains,’except in an air-conditioned tourist coach. We may we be mildly discontent. We may even be really unhappy with our lot. But by this time of life we have come to the conclusion that the ‘grass will always remain greener in the other field.’ We no longer have the inclination to climb the fence into a new paddock, anyway. Who wants to eat grass?

Macquarie Island, home to 18,000 Elephant Seals and 3,000,000 penguins

Despite the ravages inflicted by Mankind over a hundred years, the island is once again filled with wildlife.   Here is the ANARE base camp, situated on a low isthmus at the islands northern end.
Despite the ravages inflicted by Mankind over a hundred years, the island is once again filled with wildlife. Here is the ANARE base camp, situated on a low isthmus at the islands northern end.

Storytelling - How to Tell a Great Story.

Middle age and beyond are those years when we coast, rather than climb. We dream wistfully of winning a Lotto Prize and changing our life yet, inside, we know that this is hardly likely to happen. Our minds, previously focused so strongly and affixedly on the future, are now found wandering as much in the past as in the days that lie ahead. We join associations, clubs, groups in which we have something in common with people who once lived, or worked as we did in earlier times. We look forward to reunions. Our days of nostalgia have begun.


A group of Gentoo Penguins

There are four main species of penguins on Macquarie: Kings, Royals, Gentoos, and Rockhoppers - entotal, arouind three million of them!
There are four main species of penguins on Macquarie: Kings, Royals, Gentoos, and Rockhoppers - entotal, arouind three million of them!

Empathise with common stories, common memories

So the raconteur is ploughing in rich soil indeed when he has a mature audience before him. There, among his thirty or three hundred listeners he has thousand of hours of experience in life to which he can link up. The raconteur knows that among all of these people there are bound to be a few who have had similar experiences to himself, sees things as he does, so he interrupts his story to ask the audience a question or two. In this way he is not only inviting participation, he is giving the audience a feeling of belonging. He invites them to be a part of it all.

If you liked this little snippet into my own story telling world, and you would really like to find out how to tell a great story yourself, get back to me. I have written a whole book on the subject. The Nostalgia Factor is just one small part of it.

I hope you enjoyed Storytelling - How to Tell a Great Story.

Tom.

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