Recently, my family escaped the cold northern winter and jetted over to Aulani, Disney's Resort on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. It was what you would expect - A top notch resort with all of the Disney charm and magic in one of the most beautiful settings on earth.
We enjoyed all types of fun from scuba diving and cage diving with sharks, to traversing the island and seeing where Jurassic Park was made, and of course, spending lots of time chasing our 5 year-old, Hannah, chasing Disney characters all over the resort.
One evening, we discovered a nightly event the resort puts on where a Hawaiian "Uncle" tells stories by the large fire pit overlooking the ocean and the beach. I'll admit, the first time we attended, I thought it would take about 3 seconds for Hannah to get bored and run off to look for more characters. But I was pleasantly surprised by the "Uncle." He told one of the most engaging and captivating stories I've heard in years and kept the audience on the edge of their seats poised for more, including my 5 year-old. From that point, we made it part of our nightly ritual after dinner to go hear a story. And each time, it was the same result - mesmerizing and captivating.
Storytelling, or I should say good storytelling, it one of the best ways to connect with people. It is
hard-wired in our brains and for much of our evolution, things were passed down through story. So I started to take note of the way each "Uncle" told us their story every night and I noticed these 4 powerful elements that you can use to help engage, mesmerize, and captivate others when telling your story or the story of your business.
1.) Grab Attention Right Away with Something the Audience Does Not Expect
The "Uncle" typically did this by playing a song on a ukulele or by asking the audience if they knew what something was that related to the story they were about to tell. It might have been a Hawaiian term or tradition (which most or all did not know the answer to). This got attention and created curiosity which got people (and 5- year olds) listening. This can also be called a "hook." If you are going to tell a story, think of a way you can grab the audiences attention in a unique way quickly and keep them listening.
2.) Make the Audience Part of the Story
The other thing each "Uncle" did was to find creative ways to make the audiences part of their story. They would do this by either involving them in a song that was sung at opportune times during the story or asking them to point out certain Hawaiian words, or alert them to when they did something while telling the story. This kept the audience engaged and keeping up with the story. When you are telling a story, you should always strive to find ways to have your audience participate and be a part of the story. People support what they help to create and giving people a chance to be a part of that makes them that more excited to listen.
3.) Work the Crowd
This is probably obvious, but if you just stand in one spot and don't engage the crowd in memorable way, you will probably lose them. Each "Uncle" had their own way of working the crowd from going throughout the audience in different areas to jumping up on the lava rocks surrounding the story telling area to even playing the ukulele throughout while going to different areas of the crowd. The lesson here is to make sure you are watching your audience and meeting them where they are to bring them into your story. I would watch each "Uncle" pick out the area of the crowd that had kids that were losing interest and find unique ways to get the kids back into the story. You must do the same with your audience.
4.) Make it an Experience
This was a little easier with the backdrop of Aulani and giant lava rock fire pit, but nevertheless, each "Uncle" did a great job making it a unique experience to listen to them and their story. No two were the same. And no story was ever the same either. When you are telling your story, look at how you can make it a memorable experience. What is the one or two most important points that you want the audience to take and ask yourself how you can make those lasting memories for the audience to take with them.