3 Best Places to Hear Great Stories
By John Millen
In my business storytelling courses, I tell my students that one of the best ways to learn to be an engaging storyteller is to listen to great stories.
Your best source of inspiration is to develop your awareness and start listening to stories from the people around you every day.
Of course, you can also find amazing stories in books, films, podcasts and other venues. I’m constantly collecting and analyzing stories from all of these and other sources.
If you want to develop your storytelling skills, here are my three favorite places for hearing people tell stories:
1. TED Talks
For business leaders and entrepreneurs, there are few sources better than TED’s 18-minute stories.
As I wrote in How to Present Like a TED Talk Pro, “there are thousands of TED Talks on every conceivable topic. I have a few highly disciplined clients who start or end their days with one TED Talk for motivation and inspiration.”
These talks take full advantage of the power of storytelling by using stories to bring their ideas to life. Most of them are built around powerful stories promoting their central idea.
Start with this curated list of stories TED calls, Personal Tales from the Edge.
TED describes these stories as “Beautiful, intimate and ultimately uplifting stories of challenge -- from making a new home in a strange country, to rebuilding life after unthinkable tragedy.”
2. The Moth
I first heard The Moth listening to my local public radio station as ordinary people told their stories live on stages around the country.
Driving my family to lunch on Saturdays we would listen to these short, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant stories.
The live events are typically built around a theme, such as the current theme:
GROWN: Prepare a five-minute story about the highs and lows of adulting, or the trials and tribulations of getting there. Old enough to know better or wishing someone else would grow the heck up. Growing pains, rites of passage and the great onslaught of responsibility. You know what they say: age is just a number.
Their website says “Moth stories are true, as remembered by the storyteller and always told live.”
You can listen to the latest episode of The Moth Radio Hour, Moth Podcast, or explore their library of stories going back to 1997.
Start here on their story page.
3. This American Life
Another program I originally found in the car on public radio is This American Life.
Host Ira Glass has a quirky, endearing voice and manner. His introductions of stories have the air of a friend talking over coffee, which is how I believe we should all tell our stories.
This program is also constructed around themes, such as the recent: “Setting the Record Straight. Getting to the facts can be difficult, but it’s always the right thing to do. Except when it isn’t.”
It’s hard for me to do justice to explain this program. So here’s what Glass has to say:
“When I’m trying to explain our program to someone who doesn’t know it, I stammer a bunch of words like ‘entertaining,’ ‘funny,’ ‘surprising plot twists,’ ‘true stories but not boring I swear’ … and then I just give them this list.”
Engaging people with stories
Over the years of commuting I had many a “driveway moment” as NPR describes it where you get home but sit in your car waiting to hear the end of the story.
Nowadays, I’m listening on earbuds and might lift another set of weights or take another lap to finish a great story.
As you listen to these stories it’s easy to be lost in the moment because stories are so memorable.
But when you emerge, try to understand why a storyteller engaged and kept your interest.
How were you taken on this journey, and how can you do the same with your stories?
You’ll be one step closer to learning the art of storytelling in business and in life.