Storytelling is an art. Though, it's not natural, at least to me.

I discovered the power of storytelling in graduate school. Since then, I have evangelized storytelling to colleagues and friends. While I continue to speak of its benefits, forming a story out of the ebbs and flows of everyday life feels dishonest, similar to meticulously-curated Instagram feeds.

In fact, stories are a post-hoc, revisionist way of making sense of the past. Storytelling filters out the mundane, incremental details to stitch together the most tangible and relatable highlights, vying for attention and, most importantly, memorability.

In my undergraduate program, I undoubtedly gave some uninspired presentations, in part because I didn't understand how to connect seemingly disparate ideas. Rigorous academic research taught me how to think more critically. However, there was a learning curve: I was once accused of "cause and effect" reasoning in a proposal presentation. From an erudite, that was an insult -- he was calling me lazy. Perhaps I was.

It was a minor bruise. Nonetheless, an important lesson in understanding one's audience.

As simple as it sounds, a good story can hold tremendous power in a public setting as well. In those settings -- speaking to an executive director, board, or member of the public -- a beginning, middle, and end is typically persuasive if articulated well. Even if it's not the most refined, it demonstrates to an audience that the idea was reasoned and logical.

Before starting any work, have a well defined arc and fill in the gaps later. Of course, be truthful, but define the details after you've established the mile markers for the most impactful events.

Storytelling is learned. It's okay if you're not comfortable with it at first. Once you learn the skill, it redefines how you process and present information to others.

Powerful stories build captive audiences.

by @jlevimccollum

🚍 πŸ—ΊοΈ πŸ“Š Geographer working to build better government.