Stalking the storytellers

John Paul Taylor, Arc Light Stories

John Paul Taylor of Real Life Poets tells a story with his daughter at Arc Light Stories.

In learning to tell stories better, I’ve been studying great storytellers. Or, at least, looking for them.

It’s fine to read about tips and techniques, but if I want to tell the story of a brand — my own or someone else’s — I want role models. I want to study their voice, their delivery and their wording.

Storytelling is important in marketing because we want to win people over. Stories can cut through the noise of our daily barrage of ads, pitches and hype.

As I continue to hone my storytelling skills, let me share three sources of inspiration that can help you learn from others.

1. StoryCorps

This nonprofit organization records people around the country sharing stories from their lives. A StoryCorps MobileBooth, a studio in an Airstream, came to Birmingham in January 2011 as part of its recording tour, and I was lucky to be one of the few captured on audio.

One of the best stories came from my friend Glenny Brock and her father Jon, and a 2-minute excerpt was part of NPR’s regular StoryCorps segments.

Many more episodes are available on the NPR site.

A few years ago, the group teamed with Rauch Brothers Animation to add visuals to the stories. The one below aired recently on PBS in honor of Veterans Day, featuring Marine Lance Cpl. Travis Williams.

Video: “1st Squad, 3rd Platoon,” StoryCorps with Marine Lance Cpl. Travis Williams

More animated segments are available on the StoryCorps YouTube channel.

2. Arc Light Stories

Video: “The Tale of Tommy Nichols,” Jonathan Owen’s presentation at Arc Light Stories

We’ve explored storytelling with Arc Light Stories’ cheat sheet before, and I’ve been fortunate to tell a couple of stories at these events. They feature amateur storytellers presenting true personal stories before an audience.

Podcasts feature a selection of participants and their tales.

But the best way to experience Arc Light Stories is in person. The next event is 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Avon Theater in the Lakeview district. Tickets are $5. For more details, see the event page.

Video: Promotional clip for Arc Light Stories

3. “Talk Like TED” [aff. link]

Honest confession time, folks. Prior to 2014, I had never watched a TED Talk, that series of idea-driven popular videos from speakers around the world.

It’s not like I haven’t had the opportunity. Not a day goes without a peer sharing a link to one in social media.

I’ve been listening to the audiobook for “Talk Like TED,” in which author Carmine Gallo studied hundreds of TED Talks to determine what aspects make them compelling.

So far, I’ve learned about passion for the topic and the value of stories, whether about one’s self, others or brands and products. I’ve also learned which TED speakers have stood out as the very best, giving me more examples to study. Yes, I’m now watching TED videos, both for the ideas and the delivery.

One example is Montgomery’s Bryan Stevenson, who earned one of the longest and loudest standing ovations in TED history for his talk on the American justice system.

Video: “We need to talk about an injustice,” Bryan Stevenson’s 2012 TED Talk

More videos can be found on the TED YouTube channel.

I’m looking forward to finishing the audiobook and putting those ideas into practice.

I can do a better job of storytelling, whether onstage or informally face to face. All I need to do is start learning from the best.

Which terrific storytellers should I watch? Let me know in the comments.

More in our series on storytelling:
Storytelling in Depth | Power of Storytelling

Our speakers are masters at sharing ideas and passion.
Watch them in action in our video series …

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About Wade Kwon

Wade Kwon is conference director for Y'all Connect. See his full bio.