10 steps to mastering the art of storytelling
“The world is shaped by two things — stories told and the memories they leave behind.”
― Vera Nazarian
We love stories. A good story can convey a message, entertain or ignite a fire within your audience. As a tourism professional, we create experiences, which in turn become stories.
Many people think that the art of storytelling is something difficult and complex, reserved only for certain skilled members of society. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The skills necessary to tell a story can be acquired through practice and with the right toolkit, everyone can become a master storyteller.
Whether you are trying to attract new customers or engage your current ones, quality storytelling is the way to go. This goes beyond words, encompassing photographs and videos – the principles remain the same.
Your customers will share their stories of their experiences during your tours and activities. And, as much as you are a part of creating the tour experience, you should be the one to tell the story as well. It is your story, after all. Here’s how.
1. Know your audience
This first step is crucial and will determine how long the story should be and what language you should be using. Before beginning your story, spend 5 minutes thinking about who you’re targeting.
Who are you speaking to? Millennials or Baby Boomers? Are they looking for a luxe experience or a budget-friendly one? Do you need to come across more professional or will a friendly tone work better? Will it be published as a blog post, on Facebook, or another platform?
These are very important aspects to consider to help you set the right tone and achieve the best effects with your audience.
Download your free checklist: 35 questions to know your customer better
2. Make them care
Whether emotionally, intellectually or aesthetically, you need to make your audience care. This is important in our world, where people tend to gloss over posts and skim through content.
Why should they be interested in the story? How is it relevant to your audience? Make this clear in your mind when crafting the story, because if it isn’t clear to you, it will not be clear to the reader.
Tip: Write it on a post-it and stick it on your desk to remind yourself why this story matters.
3. Set the scene
We experience the world through our senses and so, if you want to fully capture your audience, you must engage their senses. Set the scene and provide your audience with context for the story.
Where did the story take place? What did the air smell like? Did it smell like pine cones at the edge of a forest? Or like the sea by the beach? Where does the adventure begin?
By engaging the senses of your audience and setting the scene, you will achieve a more immersive experience for your readers.
4. Be creative with chronology
Sometimes you can choose to catapult the reader straight into the midst of all the action, or to the end of the story to catch their attention. It is also one of the easiest ways to arouse curiosity, suspense and tension in your story. Since your reader does not know what is happening, they will continue reading to solve the missing pieces of the puzzle.
However, keep in mind that people do not want to play Sherlock Holmes on their iPhone, so don’t make your story the new Rubik’s Cube.
5. Know your punchline
What is the purpose of telling the story? Do not forget that although you are doing this to eventually sell a product or service, it should not feel that way to the reader. The story can be funny, meaningful, emotional or a mixture of these, or something completely different. Be creative, but don’t forget to always make it relevant and interesting.
6. Engage your audience
Erase the boundary between your reader and your story. Engage them with a question (or two) and put them in the center of the story. This way, you create a first-hand experience of the narrative, igniting the desire for the reader to actually have that experience in real life.
7. Use tension
Ever read a book that was so intense you simply had to read until you finished, completely forgetting about time and space? This is what you are trying to achieve with your story. Be descriptive when telling about the climatic moments in your story.
If you’re telling the story in person, perhaps when sharing your first whitewater rafting experience, be expressive and get excited about the story you’re telling.
8. End with a grand finale
Unless the story is to continue and you are intentionally building up the suspense, there should be closure in the story. Whatever plot you’ve built should be finished and leave no questions hanging in the air.
Add magic to your story by leaving your audience with a sense of awe, the sort of feeling you get when you leave the cinema after a great film. You can do this by leaving them with a “big question” about humanity or something similar to ponder about as they make their way back to their hotel.
9. Don’t be limited by words
A picture is worth a thousand words and videos all the more. They can support your written stories and vice-versa. This is also to mean that you can create new words, provided that they make sense and their meaning is well explained to the reader.
Through this, you not only surprise and entertain your readers, but you can also build your brand by using cleverly coined words and phrases, even turning them into unique hashtags to promote your tourism business.
10. Enjoy the process
As much as you enjoy creating the experience, you should also enjoy reliving the experience in your stories. Think about it this way: the adventure you provide can live on forever and can be enjoyed vicariously by everyone who reads it.
How incredible is that? I hope you find this article useful and continue telling your unique stories to readers and travellers all over the world.