You know a good storyteller when you hear one. They’re usually engaging, relatable, and very likable.
Some storytellers, like my last guest on FMF, just have that X factor. The thing you can’t quite put your finger on.
Luckily for us, Bob Goff shares how he remembers and delivers meaningful stories via speaking events and his New York Times Bestseller, Love Does.
Here’s what we’re unpacking today:
- Why taking notes of your ideas will make you a better storyteller.
- How using images as speaking prompts are way more effective than text.
- Why being honest with the audience means being honest with yourself first.
This post is based on a podcast with Bob Goff. You can listen to the full episode here and below.
1. Take notes of your ideas
What does storytelling mean to you?
Bob: I’m a note-taker. So, for instance, when you and I were laughing about how you put in the clutch, that’s the first time I’ve ever thought about that. And it’s not going to change my life or anybody else’s life, but it’s a concept that feels poignant.
Before I forgot that, I just typed into my iPhone. What I’ll remember is this conversation you and I had and the concept that we talked about is how you make transitions between things. Then, what that emoted for me, is the mental picture of putting in the clutch. That meant to find the thing that meant the most to you, the thing that you could rely on the most and to press real hard on that.
Somehow we go through our days and if you aren’t super intentional about writing these things down, you’ll miss the best stories in your life. These little fleeting memories.
I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. I have almost 2 million words written down, five words at a time, like put in the clutch.
So what I would say to people, whether it’s public speaking or communicating a message or just remembering stories to tell and pass onto the people that you love, is to write it down. If you don’t write it down, it’s like a dog that runs across the field; you can whistle, but it will never come back again.
2. Use images as prompts
Why do you use images as prompts while you’re speaking publicly?
Bob: Google did a study and they found that people will remember 3% of the bullet points you put up, but they’ll remember 97% of every image.
Forget the PowerPoint program that has 30 slides of words on it. That’s a speech and it’s a great way to communicate information. If you want to know how many boats are in the sea of Galilee, put it on a slide and everybody will forget it.
I’m always on the lookout for something that will capture a moment, capture an idea. Evidence isn’t to give people information, it’s to give them help. Don’t give people information, give them help.
That will be something I would write down again because I don’t want to forget that and it makes sense to me.
If you are completely uninspired from a speaking event you’re at, it’s because they just gave you a bunch of information and information doesn’t have the power to change our lives. Stories do.
3. Make room for going deeper
How did you decide to start writing Love Does?
Bob: I’ve been digging a lake. I bought this place to help people to get better and to deal with their issues. Just get your stuff out there and we’ll do the laundry. So it’s a really big camp.
And I was walking around and I found a lake. Can you believe that? There’s actually a lake but it’s silted in; there’s no water in it. This lake had been built 42 years ago. They built a dam that was 25 feet high and over the last 42 years, it’s silted right to the top. So it just looked like a flat spot.
So I got an excavator and for the last four or five days, I’ve been digging down. I’ve been digging deeper.
To answer your question, when it comes to career, when it comes to navigating the things that are important to you, I would just dig a little deeper. It’s going to take a little time to get there.
But soon you’ll realize that these flat spots are actually reservoirs that have been created and overlooked in your life. They’ve just got silted in over time.
That’s what happens when you’re young. When you’re eight years old, you’re just so expressive and hopeful. And then the silting happens and you get to be 30 or 40 or 50 and you wonder where all the water is. It’s because there’s no room for it anymore.
I think what we need to do is just get the biggest excavator you can find.
I’m a really bubbly guy but I’m really insecure and most people wouldn’t understand that. What we do is we mask or deal with our insecurities each in our different ways.
Some people get really mean. Some people get really quiet. I’m married to one. Oh, some people get really funny. I’m that guy.
I don’t want to miss these cautionary signs along the way. If I am afraid to go deep with people and actually be authentic, it may be me silting it in. And what you’ll find is that all of your stories will weave together. It’s not like a card trick. You’ll find purpose and meaning in the stories and you’ll uncover some of these things.
But you’ve got to be looking. Because you won’t find it if you’re not looking.
Becoming a better storyteller involves taking pauses in life and maybe uncovering something in yourself that you’ve been avoiding.
Being an effective communicator means being honest with your audience and honest with yourself. You need one to have the other.
Bob suggests taking some steps to hone your storytelling craft:
- Take notes of the ideas you have throughout the day.
- Use images as prompts when speaking publicly.
- Make room for reflecting on your feelings. Especially the ones you tend to suppress.