How to Rehearse Telling Your Business Story

Storytelling is a creative act. How you craft and embellish a story is all about conveying your experience in imaginative ways. The purpose for practicing a story out loud in a group setting is to get in tune with saying it in front of an audience and experiencing co-creation, as well as learning what works best in the delivery of the story.

That may be different from how it’s written or how in your mind you think you’re going to tell it.

There’s absolutely no substitute for practicing out loud. After you’ve crafted the final version of the story in written form or as a storyboard, begin by working alone. Practice speaking the story out loud.

The first time, you’ll likely find that the written version needs to be tweaked. If you’re using a storyboard, you may find that the order of the images needs to be altered. Doing this initial walk-through will help you get a feel for how the story sounds and identify what needs to shift.

After you’ve practiced alone a few times, now you can set up a Story Lab. In a Story Lab, you bring in others to provide feedback.

Because storytelling is a co-created experience between you and the listener, the best way to practice your stories is with a trusted listener (or group of listeners). This will get you real-time feedback about what works and what doesn’t. Their reactions can help you determine how to polish the story. You’ll also understand at a deeper level what the story is all about.

The job of the listener in a Story Lab is to “listen the best story out of you.” That means the person needs to be in total service to you and the story. She sets aside her own agenda so she can be of the most help to you.

When choosing a listening partner, make sure it’s somebody who you feel can really take on the role. You want that partner to be able to listen delightedly to you in a selfless way. Steer clear of sarcasm and negativity in your comments while you do this.

There are two ground rules for the Story Lab to share with your partner:

  • The teller is in charge. You, the teller, own the story and the listening process. The listener needs to request permission to ask reflective questions and provide appreciation so that you stay at the forefront.

  • Everything that’s said is confidential.

Here are the steps for tellers and listeners to follow:

  1. Listeners listen delightedly.

  2. Listeners ask reflective questions of the teller.

    By answering these questions, you as the teller can determine whether you have the appropriate key message, transition, and action statement. You’ll also dive deeper into the story, which will inform what you need to bring to the next telling of it. Keep in mind that it’s not yet time to make alterations to the story.

  3. Listeners give appreciation.

    The listener provides positive feedback about all the things that went right in the story. This positive feedback works because your critical mind kicks in as you’re telling the story. Because you already know what needs to be fixed, by sharing appreciations the listener is training you on what really worked, so when you tell the story again, you can repeat those elements.

    The teller only needs to say thank you to the appreciations. At this point, it’s more powerful to know all the things that are working well for you and the story. Encourage the listener to be as specific as possible.

  4. Together, come up with as many positive suggestions for improvements as you can.

    This step is about generating ideas, not giving advice. The listener’s job is to give you, the teller, a choice of a couple different ways to handle a troubling spot so you can decide which works best for you.

    You’ll continue to share the story from a place of authenticity instead of thinking you need to tell it in a certain way because someone told you to. On the other hand, you need to be open to trying out different solutions.

  5. Before closing the Story Lab, listeners ask what other input the teller would like about the story and its delivery.

    There may be one last item that hasn’t been mentioned that you think would help. Ask the listener to share his or her observations on it. But maybe you aren’t ready in this round to hear additional feedback because you have enough material to work with. Keep this last step optional.

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