The Art of Storytelling: How to Tell a Story Like a Pro
I reached out to Lou Heckler for a video interview because of all the speakers I know, he is undoubtedly the top tier storyteller.
As a professional speaker, trainer, speech coach, and presentation skills nerd, it's hard for me to watch other speakers without taking notes on what worked in the speech, what fell flat, ideas for my own speeches, etc.
When I watch Lou Heckler on stage, I forget that I am a fellow speaker. When he takes the platform, I am an audience member. I am drawn into his stories. I slip into a transe. With absolute delight I watch the movies playing in my mind, guided by his eloquence, humor, and skill.
In this video interview, I talk with Lou about his story development process.
What is his take on good storytelling? What should people avoid when creating a story? What storytellers inspire him?
As always, below the video are my notes and takeaways, along with links to the resources mentioned in the interview. Happy watching!
You Are What You Read
Lou has a background in journalism and reads constantly from a wide a variety of sources. His wide-ranging knowledge makes him a more effective speaker as well as a pleasant conversationalist. His curiosity fuels his speaking strategies.
Lou is a connoisseur of fantastic storytellers. My favorite tip from our interview has inspired me to read the sports section of newspapers. Who would have thought?!
Because his storytelling antennae are on alert for good stories, he has noticed that some of the best stories are in the small vignettes about players in the sports section of the newspaper. Rather than looking at yesterdays scored, Lou looks for stories.
Lou mentioned a few of his favorite places to read stories.
- Rick Bragg is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who writes essays for Southern Living. Lou highly recommends his writing
- Lou mentioned that the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) has produced numerous Pulitzer Prize winners. He says it is known as a "writer's paper."
- Lane DeGregory is another of his favorite writers (Pulitzer Prize winner) who gave this fantastic storytelling advice: Look for the abnormal in the normal, and look for the normal in the abnormal. Brilliant!
One of Lou's favorite techniques is to incorporate The Challenge in his stories. He uses his stories as metaphors to challenge his audiences to take action. Rather than blatantly saying to the audience, "no go out and do something amazing!," he uses his stories as a device for the call to action. It is so much more powerful!
As Lou mentioned, adults aren't as skilled at being learners, but they are great mimics. You can use your stories to provide a model for your audiences to mimic. What should I do in this moment? Well, what would that guy from Lou's story do?
What Else Could This Mean?
All speakers should know that any great story is pointless if it doesn't have...well, a point!
Lou's process for determining what the universal truth his stories can convey is by drilling down and asking, "what else could this mean?" This is how he figures how what lesson the story will be a metaphor for.
I really recommend that you watch the video for this part. On the fly, Lou talks about something that happened to him two days ago and comes up with how that one incident could be used to demonstrate multiple lessons.
Remember, one story can have MULTIPLE meanings. So keep your stories around in some sort of filing system. Review them when you need a story and when you look at each one, ask yourself, "What else could this mean?"
Who are some of your favorite storytellers? Do you use stories in business? I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below!
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