Storytelling at work. How can I learn it?

I like to think that I am a good storyteller. I use stories in teaching, coaching and in presentations.

Some of my skill comes from my education at school and some from being surrounded by good storytelling as I grew up.

But what if I wanted to learn about storytelling now, as an adult. Where should I start?

I was talking to someone this week and I realized that while I frequently seek to learn more about storytelling, I don’t really know the best source for learning about it, because I have simply stumbled through material that looked interesting to me. More like a crow being attracted to shiny objects, than a student who want’s to master a useful skill.

I wanted to recommend some good options to become a better story teller but I wasn’t sure where to start.

Digging through my current collection of material, I found a few good guides, which I have listed below. I would love it though, if someone else can add something valuable for me and my friend to consider.

I would love it if you could:

  • Let me know if you endorse/don’t like a suggestion I make here; and
  • Suggest another source to add.

Audience is important in stories (I am told) so the audience for my recommendation is me and my friend who want to get better at story telling in a work/change management context, whether written or verbal.

The particular focus is to use storytelling to drive change, create learning and gain buy-in for ideas, rather than to just to entertain.

My own recommendations

I recommend reading lots of books (biographies, history, science fiction) so that you stumble on good stories. However I think that there are some specific guides that can really help you develop your own storytelling. These include

  1. Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. This is a brilliant guide to incorporating stories into a broader picture. They also have great books on related topics, such as “Switch” for change management.
  2. I am told that Illuminate is a brilliant book on presentations and storytelling to inspire and create change. It is probably an ideal starting point and a great book for more advanced storytelling. However I have not read it, so I cannot guarantee that it is as good as I have been told. I can claim the following to be true though:
    • I have read Data story by Nancy Duerte and I found it to be an excellent guide to combining data and a story narrative into a useful message. I can highly recommend it.
    • I find the web page https://www.duarte.com/resources/ to be really full of great ideas. It is just a little overwhelming for me so I would start with one of the books
    • I have preordered Presenting Visually which I hope will be a great guide to presenting, coaching and training online. This is something I am learning right now and would love to find more sources for material.
  3. Back of the Napkin and Show and Tell by Dan Roam are great guides to simplifying a message and making it visible. They are not pure story telling so I would start with the books above, but they are helpful.

I learn a lot from books but there must be quite a few podcasts and Ted talks on this topic. Unfortunately I don’t recall any at the moment. Would love to hear about some that are useful.

This MOOC is quite detailed and I think works best when applying the material along the way, but the material and (thankfully) the delivery are excellent. I got half way through and took a break but I am going to go back and do the whole course again. The course is called https://www.coursera.org/learn/speechwriting

If I had to pick a simple starting place I would pick one of the Nancy Duerte books, along with observing what works when reading stories. If I wanted to master story telling I would probably combine that with the online course and the Heath Brothers book.

I feel my list is lacking though because there must be a lot of excellent books/creative works on the topic of story creation, both in a work context and general storytelling.


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