The one storytelling tip that keeps giving and giving and giving

Posted: April 24th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Practice, Storytelling, Video short stories in Washington, DC, Videoblogging | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Do you have a reliable tip or resource that regularly gets you out of a bind??

In that spirit, there’s a favorite tip coming to mind now for telling stories. It’s a perception tool I’m fond of when selecting speech content and stories in general. It helps to weed out irrelevant and overly complex anecdotes too (…trying to amp up suspense here). And it’s most useful when that frustrating mental moment arrives i.e. ‘all-my-stories-and-examples-sound-ridiculous’ when organizing for a talk coming up. You know that type of frustration?!

With all this prefacing in mind (thanks for the patience), a favorite fall-back storytelling tip is:

>>>To select the simple, scenic moments vs to think in epic terms.<<<


Often when selecting content for a speech, especially the storytelling pieces, it’s easy to get bogged down in that is-it-compelling-and-epic-enough brain trap. This line of thinking often stifles logical or creative decisiveness for what can clearly guide the audience. Many fantastic speakers with strong, teachable ideas suffer greatly during speech prep for this reason (happens a lot in my own prep work).

‘What if my story isn’t grandiose enough?!’

Please let go of that mental query, and consider storytelling in a different light.

Thinking in scenic vs epic or grandiose terms helps loosen the strangle hold on the storytelling brain, and hastens clarity of mind. Observing stories in bite-size scenic slices can make intended meaning more accessible for audience and speaker alike.


  • Dialogue
  • — can a relevant conversation from your world be relayed, outlining an important decision which many audience members have confronted?

  • Awkwardness
  • — what is a teachable moment in your experience which defines meaning, in one simple paragraph for the audience even if it puts you in a vulnerable light? A quirky example: “So during my presentation, I had to run out to use the restroom while 50 top executives sat there waiting… Upon return, the only thing I could think of was to laugh and say: ‘Well thanks for your patience. And that’s exactly what we need to change design process in our company for the long term.”

  • Video
  • — is there a 30 or 45 second video clip that visually transplants an audience and unifies them with your context of meaning?

  • Data
  • — can one single data point create a simple storytelling scene, which you then base your persuasive argument?

  • Contrast
  • — can one direct question be asked, shaping a micro story for the audience which they can identify with immediately? An example: “What does it take to keep our children safe, especially when city budget cuts will reduce police forces by 20%?”

Often it is the simple, tightly-shaped scenes that define and crystalize meaning. Epic storytelling has its place in the world of audience connection too. But often, the goal to be epic strangles the speaker’s mental processing and obscures clarity of mind. How can meaning directly reach and serve the audience? For this reason, it’s worth dissecting our storytelling archives for the most direct and teachable scenes in order to relate.

A 100 second video story for kicks: international friendship
My goal this year is to practice the simple pleasures of storytelling more. Sharing 100 second video story clips about architecture is my favorite way to dive into this goal. On that note, have you heard or read about the term ‘international friendship?’ In 1908, the U.S. Secretary of State Elihu Root described the OAS building this way, a “temple of international friendship.” It’s a beautiful, striking building in Washington, DC with more in the above 100 second clip.

3 Comments on “The one storytelling tip that keeps giving and giving and giving”

  1. 1 Mayra Ruiz-McPherson said at 7:00 pm on May 11th, 2013:

    Love this post. I can totally relate to the notion of “micro-story” vs. “epic.” It instantly takes *some* (not all) of the pressure of storytelling. In terms of keeping it simple and avoiding grandiosity, even keeping it simple can be challenging at times but I suppose practice makes perfect :) Thank you for sharing these tips!

  2. 2 jillfoster said at 6:11 pm on May 13th, 2013:

    Mayra! Thanks for this and sharing your great energy here. You bring up a fine point about simplicity being a challenge too. Asserting the chance to edit, test, and edit again make all the difference I’m realizing as a way to practice storytelling. Thanks for your wisdom!

  3. 3 live your talk » Blog Archive » Pillars of romance said at 8:03 pm on February 14th, 2015:

    […] DC’s building of international friendship […]

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