September 26, 2018

Some storytellers are just born that way



In 2016, Michelle Dobyne and her neighbors escaped from their burning apartment building. Michelle, who had been cooking breakfast at the time, gave an animated and upbeat interview with the local news, which immediately went viral.

You've probably seen it, but I was reminded of it recently, because my husband and I found ourselves saying "Not today," in Michelle's cadence, but not remembering exactly where we heard it.

Not only was Michelle's interview entertaining, it was memorable!

There's a lot of emphasis on storytelling in presentations these days. But now speakers think they need to overdramatize stories and stage them like performances, and this can get in the way—especially for a less-experienced speaker—of just connecting with the audience in an authentic way.

Michelle Dobyne is a natural storyteller. I'm pretty sure she didn't have time to write and rehearse this before the news media showed up. When asked if she was putting on a show for the cameras, her husband said, "This is what we do every day. Our household is a fun household."

Not all of us are natural storytellers. It's a skill to be learned and practiced. And even a natural storyteller like Michelle could improve her skills if she so desired.

But you can already learn a few things from Michelle. Her story is brief, just 31 seconds. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. It has characters, a plot, and a conflict to be resolved. She uses humor, vocal variety and facial expression to bring the story alive. It also has a happy ending, which stories don't necessarily need to have, unless you're a speaker who wants to end your audience's journey on a positive note.

News 6 in Tulsa caught up with Michelle two months after the video went viral to see how she was doing with her newfound fame. Her response pretty much sums up what we want to do as storytellers:

“I told the world what was going on and how it was going on,” she said.

See the original interview and read the story here.



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