One of the most crucial skills a podcaster must possess is the ability to tell stories. Barring some weird edge cases or those experimenting within our medium, I'll go so far as to say that every podcast is a storyteller, whether they consider themselves to be or not.
Your ability to tell stories on your podcast is more important than the timbre of voice. Your ability to tell stories on your podcast is more important than your equipment stack. And it's likely that your ability to tell stories is more important than how much money you allocate to marketing your podcast.
But a lot of podcasters—perhaps you—see storytelling as an innate skill, like having a "good voice". It's something either you have, or you don't have.
That's simply not true.
Storytelling is definitely a skill that can be acquired. Storytelling is a discipline with many practitioners offering workshops, classes, and one-on-one training. One of those practitioners is Dawn Fraser. I attended a presentation of hers recently, specifically designed to help podcasters use stories to create riveting podcast content.
While I am a capable storyteller, I am neither a teacher of the art of storytelling nor am I a storytelling coach. Dawn is both of those things, and it is with all deference to Dawn that I relate the clever mnemonic device I learned from her that will help serious podcasters like you better understand how you can tell better stories on your podcast.
The STORY Method Of Podcast Storytelling
Dawn's storytelling technique for podcasters has an easy-to-remember acronym story: STORY.
S = Stakes
The S stands for stakes. You can think of the stakes as the promise made, either implicitly or explicitly. Another way to think about this is that the stakes are not the why of the episode, but the want of the episode. It's the hunger. A soon-to-be fulfilled need. It's an expectation that you, the podcaster, set for the audience. It's an agreement between two parties that keeps you on track and keeps your audience locked in place as you tell the tale.
T = Theme
The T is for theme, and the theme is the main through-line of a story. It's the "meat" if you will. You've heard me talk before many times about topic and angle. This is that, but it's more than just that and makes those two important parts blend together. Topic, angle, as well as where you're taking the story. Understanding the theme of an episode of your podcast enables you to trim away the excess bits, ensuring that all of the parts of your episode fit the framework you've established. And that only those parts make it into your episode.
O = Organization
The O is for organization, literally how you let the final episode unfold. You know that every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. But sometimes, starting your episode somewhere in the middle of the story—or even right near the climax—and then guiding your listeners through the story on a less obvious path makes for a better episode. Another key aspect of organization is making sure you're answering questions, dealing with any uncertainties, and making sure you're headed towards a loose-end-free conclusion.
R = Recreating
The R is for recreating. Not just a linear retelling of what happened. That's boring. Unless you're on the witness stand, no one wants you to repeat the story as it happened. They want you to recreate the story, giving them an experience that makes sense to learn after the fact. Your audience wasn't there when the thing happened. They're here now, listening to you. They need a different structure than a linear flow, so they rely on you to summarize points and recreate scenes to make your story work as a podcast episode. This is the time to remember the old adage; show, don't tell.
Y = You
Finally, the Y is for you. You are an integral part of every single story that you share. You need to be honest, authentic, and relatable. And you also need to stand in for us, the listening audience, as you tell us your story. You are our proxy. You get us deeper into the stories you tell on your podcasting episodes. You're making a podcast episode, not a Wikipedia entry. We want some of your personality and even biases in the episode. That's why we're there.
Every Podcaster Is A Story Teller
With some odd edge cases aside, I do think every podcaster is a storyteller. The message needs to be conveyed, and 200,000 years have shaped the human brain into a story-receiving vessel. Podcasters will do well to remember that.
And if you want to get better at storytelling—you can. There are plenty of practitioners of storytelling. Some, like Dawn Fraser, are already in your community with plenty of learning options.
Nota bene: This isn't a paid sponsorship post for Dawn. I'm a fan of her work and drew inspiration from her talk, so I'm returning some of that value by showcasing what I learned from her and spreading the good word.
Telling good stories makes podcasting better, and that's my goal with this show.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.