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Storytelling: Your Personalized Recipe Book

Storytelling: Your Personal Recipe Book

Do you remember your all-time favorite meal? What memories does it bring back? The stronger our connection to memories, the more vividly we remember them.

I remember the first time eating T’beet, a famous Iraqi dish consisting of chicken stuffed with rice and spices. Hands down, it is the most aromatic and flavorful dish I’ve eaten. The other reason why I have fond memories of T’beet is because of my grandmother.

She would spend hours preparing this dish whenever I would see her. It was always a special occasion whenever her grandson would visit. It is true how they say that people express their love for others through food. It also goes both ways – Since she could not communicate well enough in English, we expressed love by spending quality time together and bonding over our love of food. Like a great recipe book, your intent as a storyteller should be to provide the audience with an experience that is memorable, easy to follow, and makes them want more. Cooking can be broken down into 3 key elements:

  • Ingredients (what you use to make the meal)

  • A set of instructions (aka recipe)

  • The act of cooking (following the recipe)

Trying to connect with someone else without first understanding who you are is like trying to cook food without knowing what ingredients to use, in what order, and so on. Forget one element and both fall apart. Let’s dig deeper into the three elements.

storytelling recipe elements

Ingredients = Storytelling Experiences

The ingredients used in a recipe are equivalent to the personal experiences used in your stories. You cannot tell a story without content, just like you can’t cook food without using any ingredients.

The ingredients make the recipes unique. Our experiences are equally amazing and the reason why we are who we are. Recipe = Storytelling Structure

A recipe provides a set of instructions for cooking food, containing both amounts and chronological order. If one deviates from the recipe, the food may not turn out as expected. Similarly, the storytelling structure acts as a guide for the audience to follow along with the speaker. For a story to be complete, it must contain 4 elements:

  • Beginning how you grab your audience’s attention

  • Middle describing a conflict or struggle

  • End a resolution to the conflict

  • Takeaway your WoW (Words of Wisdom) or key learning for the audience

This structure is essential whether you are cooking a recipe or telling a story to an audience. Act of Cooking = Storytelling Delivery

This is the make-or-break element. If you don’t follow the recipe correctly, the food could get undercooked, overcooked, or not have the right texture. An ineffective storytelling delivery can cause the audience to disconnect from the speaker no matter the level of content or structure.

How you communicate meaning matters most to the audience. Professor Albert Mehrabian from UCLA pioneered numerous studies on the impact of communications. The meaning behind messages of feelings and attitudes is split into 55/38/7:

  • 55% is facial expressions

  • 38% is paralinguistic (the way words are said)

  • 7% is in the words that are spoken

how we communicate meaning to others

Using this research on the power of paralinguistics and facial expressions, here are 3 of the largest growth opportunities for storytellers.

  1. Improve your non-verbal skills and effectively ‘read the room’.

  2. Develop your vocal variety – volume, speed, pitch, tone, clarity, emotion, silence, pauses

  3. Concisely deliver your message or else the audience can't follow along.

Putting Together Your Storytelling Recipe Book

Once you understand your audiences’ tastes, you can effectively craft a compelling story. You will have the flexibility to tailor your recipe depending on the audience and environment – it doesn’t need to be the same recipe every time. The structure and delivery type can be tweaked among other things. Final Words

People remember great recipes. People remember great stories. How do you want your audience to feel?

David Ghodsizadeh is the founder and storytelling coach at Storytelling 4 Success.


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