At church yesterday I sat next to Warren. Warren is 50 years old and had never been to our church. In fact, Warren had never been to church.
I learned that Warren is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic and now has sclerosis of the liver. He was sitting next to his mother Maggie who had prayed for him for many, many years. Maggie held Warren’s hand like I imagined she did when he was a little boy.
Sitting next to Warren gave me a fresh perspective of a place so very familiar to me for sixteen years. I am on the inside getting a glimpse of what it looks like from the outside.
With the emphasis put on storytelling nowadays, a lot of air talent is left in the dark, with no real coaching on HOW to become better at it. COMPOSITION is the missing skill a lot of the time. So here are three guidelines that I coach:
- As you prep the break (or podcast), pay attention to what needs to be left OUT. Most C-level stories have too many “scenes,” too many names, or too many plot points that really aren’t necessary. Weed them out.
- Endings are the second-most pressing need for improved storytelling. Avoid trying to “tie a neat bow around it” at the end. “Aesop’s Fable” endings are fine for children, but can sound sappy or redundant to most people. You’ll stand out more by NOT doing this. The same goes for the “self-help book” type of ending. Ick. Knock off the moralizing, please. And the ending should always be something that WASN’T said earlier in the break. Surprise me.
- The first place where something unexpected is said is probably going to be the best ‘exit.’ Taking the First Exit is surprising in itself, because most people drive right past it.
Hope this helps you.
My daddy was a great story teller. Family gatherings almost always ended up in the living room with one of us kids begging, “Dad, tell the one about…” He loved family history and those stories shared over the decades among aunts, uncles, cousins and grandchildren helped us to realize how we are all connected and a part of the same story. Dad also said with a twinkle in his eye, “Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story,” so we knew we had to pay attention in case something about the story had changed!
No one in our format seems to openly doubt the power of a story, but I’m surprised how few talent tell stories on the air… much less do it well. It seems that we give lip service to story and then go about our business sharing data or talking about something on Facebook, the ultimate lazy man’s show prep.
This came up in a music radio session the other day with a morning team . Here’s an excerpt from their recap…
A key to the telling of any story is to think about how it unfolds. Just “winging it” is what real people do, but that’s not what sets apart air personalities and storytellers. You want to be constantly pointing forward, moving forward, to the next thing – that “reveal” that advances the story.
Example: You started the second News story with “…and alligators do not make good teammates…” followed by “(City) FC is based in Orlando, Florida this year, and during Monday’s practice the team got a surprise…” Continue reading