Take Your Story from MEH to WOW: 3 Steps to Better Storytelling

Art of Speaking

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When you’re up on stage, all you have to rely on is your story. And in order to have the greatest impact, your story needs to wow the audience.

Whenever I prepare to share a new story on stage, I follow three simple steps. These easy-ish and practical techniques improve my stories so that I leave a lasting impression, long after I’ve walked off the stage.

1. The battlefield principle

You ever watch a movie and after 30-minutes wonder, “When’s it gonna get good?”

You want to get to the part in the movie where the action happens. That’s the battlefield principle – a term coined by my friend, Ry Schwartz.

This principle applies to any form of storytelling – whether it’s a movie or a speech – throw your audience in the middle of the conflict, the intrigue, the suspense. Hook them right from the start.

Most of us, unknowingly, ramp up a story…like preheating an oven. We start with details that we think are important, but really add nothing. My tip is to START with the good stuff instead of ramping up to it.

For example which opening makes you want to hear more?


“I have this aunt named Becky and I’ve always known her as an honest person…”


“I glance down at my phone and see that my aunt Becky has been arrested by the FBI…”

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(too soon?)

EXTRA CREDIT: write the story out then delete the first paragraph altogether. Chances are, that first paragraph isn’t going to intrigue your audience and is probably a bunch o’ ramping up.

2. Eliminate & escalate

After you’ve told the story 20 times in one day, write it out word-for-word. Then…

Eliminate extra words ruthlessly. If it doesn’t advance the story, remove it.

Imagine you had to pay $100 for every word. The quickest way to make a 1,000-word story better is to slim it down to 800 words.

Don’t be timid in your wording. Raise the stakes.

Wherever possible, escalate the wording so that the colors are vivid, the contrast is high, the words are sharp and bold.

There is a disconnect that happens between the stage and the audience. If you want them to feel a 10, you need to play at an 11 to really have an impact.

Go To 11 Spinal Tap GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Think about the picture you’re painting with your words and be as descriptive as possible. Between column A and B, which describes the feeling the best?



Sad Broken hearted
Frustrated Absolutely crushed and devastated
It was really hard to deal with

It was a grenade of confusion in my heart

3. Practice x 20

Tell your story one-on-one 20 times in a single day. Skype someone. Call someone. Tell ‘em over lunch or coffee. Corner a random stranger if you must. Just get in the reps. It’s the high intensity interval training equivalent of storytelling.

Each time you tell a story it gets 1% better. So, it stands to reason that telling the same story 20 times over a condensed period of time will make it exponentially better. Because a great story has been refined with each iteration.

Things to look for when you’re telling your story:

  • Laughter or leaning in
  • Looking away or checking their phone

These cues will give you intel on what worked and what didn’t work and what might need a tweak or three.

Rule #1: don’t tell them you’re workshopping a story (you don’t want pity points). Just tell them the story as you would any other story.

Rule #2: After you tell them the story, ask what confused them and what the most interesting part was. Don’t be afraid to ask them what they felt the moral of the story was to see if you got your point across.

Attempt to address their comments before you tell the story to the next person.

What you have to say is important. You want people to sit up in their seats and pay attention.

Don’t be fooled:

This sorta work is really hard but really important in order to have the best and most lasting impact with your audience.