Let’s Start at the Very Beginning — Storyteller Extraordinaire Ira Glass Leads the Way for Nonprofits

Let's Start at the Very Beginning -- Storyteller Extraordinaire Ira Glass Leads the Way for NonprofitsChapter 1 begins with learning how to tell a good yarn from America’s favorite storyteller, This American Life host Ira Glass.

Storytelling is such the rage, and most nonprofits do it in some form. But I hear so many stories that don’t move me an iota. Ira explained what it takes to weave a tale that’ll fully engage your listeners, and stay in their minds and hearts:
A Good Story

  • Builds momentum, slowly but surely. Listeners will hang tight when you build suspense, sequencing one event or step after another. We’re all hungering for surprise (the media too).
  • Features multiple characters. Use different voices (with all their intonations, accents, and other specs) to highlight interplay among characters; otherwise you’re doing a monologue — much less interesting than multiple points of view.
  • Casts the right storyteller. Whose perspective will shape the most compelling tale?
  • Is specific. The details — like the minutia that make up your life — make it real. Like it or not, that’s what 90% of our daily life is made of.
  • Connects pieces and voices in an overall theme. Make sure to step away here and there to frame events in a context that ties them together. That’s your theme.
  • Uses music to build suspense. For greatest impact, stop the music for a few seconds of silence before your revelation. But make sure the music doesn’t overwhelm the teller’s voice or distract from the story.

Take a look at these two takes on Ira’s how stortelling how tos, from the Knight Foundation’s Marc Fest and Rebecca Arno, VP of Communications with The Denver Foundation.

What can you add to the list?

P.S. Learn how to craft the shortest and most compelling story for your org. Download the free Nonprofit Tagline Report for must-dos, don’t dos, case studies and 1,000+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Nancy Schwartz on September 29, 2008 in Branding and Messages, Comnet08, storytelling, Strategy | 4 comments
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  • John Haydon

    Nancy,
    Great post. I’m a huge Ira Glass fan – I get all the shows and podcasts on my iPod.
    The other great marketing advice I’ve gotten from Ira is his method of Karma Marketing by including others in his story telling. It’s completely sincere and focused on creating good content – not yucky self promotion.
    A lot of the people featured are film makers, authors and bloggers (all with their own needs for publicity). In a very natural and warm-hearted manner, he is promoting others – and serving his audience.
    Keep the good stuff coming!
    John

  • Communications Network

    Telling Stories

    Thanks to these two prolific — and terrific — bloggers for their posts on Ira Glass’ plenary session on storytelling:Denise Graveline: Ira Glass pitch advice: surprise me Nancy Schwartz: Let’s Start at the Very Beginning — Storyteller Extraordinaire…

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