– Part 3 of The Sales Storyteller Series
Not everyone is a born storyteller. Putting together a compelling narrative or even a compelling sentence can be tough, especially if you’re channeling your creative energies into other activities. Even the best storytellers run out of material or hit a wall and need to regroup. But I have good news. There are ways you can improve your storytelling skills and recharge your batteries even while you’re on the go.
We’ve gone over the elements of compelling storytelling, now let’s try these five simple exercises that you can incorporate into your everyday life that will help boost those creative juices and make you a better storyteller.
Describe Your Surroundings
Have you ever been reading a book or an article and a description so beautiful and accurate stopped you and made you go back to read it again? Have you ever wondered how to describe a certain smell or color to someone who has never smelled it or seen it before? Why not give it a try?
Great storytellers are conscious of their surroundings. To become a better storyteller, make an effort to take in more detail, notice what’s going on around you just a little bit more. Once you do, you’ll be able to practice describing your surroundings. There are opportunities everywhere for exercising and expanding this skill set.
While you are waiting in line at the grocery store, walking your dog, putting on your makeup or brushing your hair, think about an object or feeling or smell and describe it to yourself. Use words you’d never use, and try to see it from a new perspective. You can be silly or serious. It doesn’t matter what you come up with, good or bad, as long as you are thinking in new ways.
Do Something New
Doug Kurtz, a writing coach and very cool guy, recently put out a podcast on creative stagnation. To free yourself from a creative rut, Doug advises you to go out into the world and try something new.
Storytellers are constantly mining their own experiences for material. Sales rock stars will always have something fun and new to share as they build important customer relationships, the most popular people at a party are in demand because they entertain with exciting stories from their lives, and your friends might be sick of hearing the story about you busing the table for a movie star the hundredth time.
This exercise can be as simple as talking to a stranger while you are waiting in line at Starbucks or as complex as taking skydiving lessons. It’s completely up to you. But if you expand your horizons, you’ll be surprised at how energized you will get in other, seemingly unrelated, parts of your life.
Take a Breath…Try Meditation
I don’t need to tell you that meditation can reduce stress and improve your health. But did you know that clearing your mind can be beneficial to your creative side as well? Studies have shown that meditative exercises can promote creative thinking, which is exactly what you need in order to be an effective storyteller.
Especially in times of high stress, try this easy, meditative exercise to restore your mental energies for the tasks ahead. Find a comfortable place to sit (this can be at your desk) with your feet on the floor. Allow your hands and arms to relax, put your head back or let it fall forward, and close your eyes. Take deep breaths from your diaphragm, slowly, in and out, and let your mind wander. Imagine all the tension in your body floating away. Give yourself at least half a dozen repetitions before you come back to reality.
Use this technique whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or even bored. Sometimes all it takes is a few moments to let go to help you see the bigger picture.
Have you heard of mind mapping? There are lots of tools online to help with strategic mind mapping and outlining, but for our purposes mind mapping is simply a way to brain storm new ideas. I first learned about mind mapping from other writers. Writers use mind mapping as a problem solving tool for when they are stuck with a character or a scene or any number of other issues they run into, and you can too.
Try this exercise when you are stuck on a problem, and it will help you break through to potential solutions you weren’t able to connect with in more traditional ways.
Write a word at the center of a piece of paper (or whatever is handy, like a napkin) that embodies the issue you are facing. Then, without focusing on any one thing, allow your mind to travel a meandering path as you write the next word that comes to mind, then the next word, then the next, all over the page. The trick is to let go and allow your brain to come up with anything it wants, whether it makes sense or not, without stopping to think on any one concept. Once you’ve filled the page, go back and look it over. Circle the words that make the most sense and see if you find new connections between them that lead to potential solutions.
Practice Being a Storyteller
Practice makes perfect, or so they say. The best exercise you can do to become a fantastic storyteller and keep your creative energies flowing is to practice the skill itself. Don’t worry, it’s easy.
As you are walking down the street (or at your office, in a parking lot, anywhere really), pick a stranger out of the crowd and tell yourself their story. Be as wild as you want. Tap into the storyline of the television show you watched last night and make them a character in it. Is that woman wearing cowboy boots because she is on her way to save her ranch from an unscrupulous CEO? Maybe the man jogging around the corner is a spy doing surveillance on the building, or that couple holding hands met in an elevator when it got stuck for a few hours during a blackout.
Mine your own memories for ideas or just go crazy. It’s always fun to make up stories, even in small ways. The best part is you can do this exercise anytime, anywhere. Get in the habit, and you’ll be a world class storyteller in no time.