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Kindra Hall

Kindra Hall is a storyteller, acclaimed keynote speaker, and bestselling author of Stories that Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences, and Transform Your Business. She's here to remind you how important storytelling is, especially for your business.

How to tell better stories
How to tell better stories

How to tell better stories

Ep
188
May
11
With
Kindra Hall
Or Listen On:

The four key components of storytelling

Kindra Hall is a storyteller, acclaimed keynote speaker, and bestselling author of Stories that Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences, and Transform Your Business. She's here to remind you how important storytelling is, especially for your business.

We all recognize the need for connection, now more than ever. And telling stories is an excellent way to connect with people, but being a great storyteller is not easy.

Like most important things, great storytelling requires strategy and effort. It's more than simply reporting information. You've got to feel it.

By feel, we mean you have to care and communicate emotion in your story. That doesn't mean sharing your deepest, darkest, most private pieces of yourself. It could be fundamental, like feeling frustrated, nervous, or curious.

In this episode, Kindra offers tips on what makes for good storytelling and how you can practice telling them. According to her, there are four critical components to storytelling, and you can start using them right now.

Whether you give weekly presentations or are working on your very first, Kindra's advice for telling better stories can only help.

Episode Transcript

Kindra:

Your audience likes hearing stories. The DNA within them says, "Ooh, you get to hear a story." And they are excited about that. And you can that energy shift. The hostility drops, and they're just more open. You feel that, which then in turn makes you feel more comfortable as a presenter.

Chris:

I've been tracking you down on social media for I feel like years now. And I am so glad, I'm so happy that we're actually here today doing this conversation because I have gone through your first book I think so many times. And I've been quoting it, referencing it, recommending it to people. And then I see you going on this journey about writing your follow-up book to it, which in my hands here, Choose Your Story, Change Your Life. And I was just super impressed at how focused you were. Everywhere you went, you were writing and you were documenting this. It was so cool.

Kindra:

Yeah. I think as any creative knows that it's of great mystery, right? Trying to figure out how you can best be your creative self, and what those environments look like, and what it means. And I think I figured out what mine is. So when you say I was so focused, it really is because I learned that if I do not have a full runway to only focus on that, I am zero focused. So for that, I think it was a total of six weeks. That is all I did. I had no conference calls. I had no podcasts. I was responsible to no one. Even the kids knew, my husband knew just leave her alone. And that is how I've learned I write the best.

Chris:

Wow. Okay. There's a lot of super impressive things to talk about. And I need to introduce you to our audience. So for people who don't know who you are, can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit of a story?

Kindra:

Yeah. No pressure. Right? From the storyteller. I got you. Well, I'm Kindra Hall. And I also have to say, not that I've been tracking you down, but I will never forget the first day we met. And just knowing in an instant what an incredible person you are. And it's been so rewarding for me when I hear from others, "I heard about you from Chris or Chris sent me your book." So A, I'm so grateful for all your support. And B, you have earned your way to the reputation you have. So thank you for serving your audience so well.
I'm Kindra Hall. I suppose you could say in a nutshell, my expertise is storytelling. I am an author, a keynote speaker. I get to do a little bit more research these days. And essentially, I told my first story when I was 11 years old. It was an assignment for fifth grade. And I remember walking into the classroom. We were supposed to choose a children's book and then go read it to a third grade classroom, two grades below us. So they're just peons. Right?
And I remember getting into the classroom and those third graders, it was the end of the day. It was the end of the school year. The kids were bouncing off the walls. There was no hope for me, for them to listen to anything that I was about to read. And not to mention then the girl who went right before me, because we went in pairs, she read the book. I'll like, you forever. I'll love you for always, as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be. Which that's not the whole title. The title's shorter than that. But it's this very emotional book about out a baby that grows up, and the mom loves this baby. And eventually, the baby grows into a full man. And then the mother dies and he's saying this to ... I mean anyway, the point being the third graders were having none of it. And that was the act that I had to follow. And I decided just to put the book that I was supposed to read to them, which would've been good enough I'm sure. Put it down and tell the story.
And fifth grade was a transformational year. I have a fifth grade son now. I can already tell it is the year when you really start figuring out who you are, independent of your family. Independent, but also a little codependent on your friends. And to have this huge realization at that very vulnerable time, I definitely got the sense at 11 years old standing in that classroom that wait, maybe all I need to do when there's chaos all around me and I want my voice to be heard is tell a story.
So that's really, and it was such a pivotal moment. It's very vivid to me in my memory. And ever since that time, I've either been telling stories. I did a lot of storytelling. I started studying stories once I got into college. That was my thesis for my master's degree was the role of storytelling in organizations. I worked as a director of marketing, VP of sales. Found myself constantly frustrated that they were missing the story, or there wasn't time for this story. Or here's a story, but it wasn't a story. And eventually, decided that I think that's probably what I'm here to do is to if nothing else, remind people how important storytelling is. And if I can, help them figure out what the story actually is. So here we are today.

Chris:

Here we are. Okay. Before we get into the, there's a whole bunch of things I want to talk to you about. But I want to take us a little bit back to SearchLove. You're on stage. I knew you just from the internet, but then I saw you just take that stage and tell your story. And you shared a couple of stories. Can I ask you to repeat some of those stories perhaps maybe?

Kindra:

Oh gosh. I don't even know if I can remember what they were.

Chris:

Well, I'll prompt you here. If I remember correctly, it was about a high school assignment.

Kindra:

Oh yeah.

Chris:

Can you tell that story please?

Kindra:

Yeah. So there was another, and I'm not going to tell it the way I really ... I'm going to tell the podcast version. All right? Because we got to save the good stuff for this stage Chris. But it was along that same journey. So I went from fifth grade through school. Then I'm at my senior year of high school. And remember, I had figured out that stories were a really important force. And I continued to try to test it, to see in what situations could stories save me, or get me what I wanted. I tried using storytelling on my parents with different dating situations. They were stories. Those bordered on, there was some truth and some expansion of truth in those stories, but there was again another critical moment where it was physics class. My grade in physics was terrible. And we had to write a paper at the end of the year. And it really was my only hope for getting my grade to be somewhat representative of who I saw myself as a person.
And so we had to write a paper. I chose, my topic was gravity. I went to the library, got everything I could find about gravity, came home, wrote the paper on my little, the cursor. Do you remember the insert button where you would push it and it would delete? It was kind of like a copy paste before copy paste was a thing. I fought with that a lot. I had my floppy disc in there. And all of a sudden and done the paper was due and just the next morning. And I was finished, and I had four pages, and it was supposed to be five. And that's the only thing that mattered at least at my high school was you needed five pieces of paper, and all five of them had to have words printed on them.
So there wasn't much more to say about the fact that things go up in the air, and then after a while they come back down. That was it. That was all there was to say. So being someone was testing the power of story, I decided to test it here. And I wrote a story about roller coasters and how I love roller coasters. And there was this one particular rollercoaster at Valleyfair, which was the amusement park where I grew up in Minneapolis. And it was very detailed how you get on the roller coaster, and you feel the bars come over your shoulders, and you go in the air, and then there's that sensation in your stomach as you take the first descent. It's very story. Because the feeling in your stomach when you're on a roller coaster is the direct result of gravity.
So I put that story at the front of the paper, all the information, and then came back to the story at the end was something cheesy about, "The next time I'm on a roller coaster, I will look to the sky and thank Sir Newton for his discovery of gravity." So I handed the paper in. I was pretty sure I was going to get in trouble because clearly I was cheating by just inserting a bunch of fluff. And instead I got the paper back. It was the first A I had gotten. And on the back, my teacher wrote excellent application of information to real life stories.
And again, that was another one of those moments that really stood out to me. It was we often think that stories aren't as important. If you're supposed to write a science paper, it's supposed to be filled with science. And story is the opposite of science. So by putting story in there, you actually are just trying to fill the page so you don't get in trouble. And I think even now, if there is a problem among story in business, it's that whenever we think that we really need to get to the point, we rely, we share the information. Even if we had stories in there, we cut them out because we need to get to the point, not realizing that stories actually are the most important piece to keep in.

Chris:

And yet, so many of us when we're on stage in front of a boardroom, we forget that. And we lean into too much facts and figures, and we lose the audience. Why do you think that's the case?

Kindra:

I am guilty of the same thing. And I'm the storyteller. This is what I do. I remember I had, this was years after we were together at SearchLove, which I have a whole different story. There's a behind the scenes story there that maybe I could share with you someday of SearchLove.
But years after SearchLove where I was well on my keynote speaking career, this is definitely what I was doing as my job. I had a big keynote. I was hired for a big keynote. And when you speak, you present. And this is true for sales presentations too. It may not be as explicit, but you have a time limit. You only get so much time. And for this particular event, I had 45 minutes. So I started preparing my slides and getting everything ready. And then they wrote me back and said, "We have an announcement coming out. So now it's 30 minutes." And then it went to 20 minutes. And then two days before the event, it was 18 minutes was how much time I had. Well, you prep for these things. You get it all ready, not to mention it was in front of 15,000 people. So this was a really big deal. And I wanted to do a great job. So even I in frantic feeling of oh my gosh, how do I take 45 minutes and make it 18? I just cut all the stories out of the deck. I'm like, "I don't have time for this story. I don't have time for this story." And when I looked at it, all that was left were the slides with the bullet points on it. Because I want to make sure that they understood the things that I wanted to teach them.
And I think that when we talk about that as a standard problem, it comes from a good place. We want to do the thing. We are there to do justice. We want them to understand whatever it is. Whether it's the features and benefits of a product, or you as a candidate for a position, or me as I really want these people to understand the importance of their story and how to tell it. So we revert to that information, because the information has value. It's important that they know certain things. But it's so easy to forget that knowing is only part of it. We need to feel it. And if you really want somebody, you want it to stick, which I hesitate saying because it sounds so cheesy, because it's the title of my book. But if you want it to be like yep. Stories that stick. There it is. You even have the advanced copies. See? I knew to send you the original.
But we talk about things being bio available. It's that same thing. If you want your information to be bio available, you need to wrap it in a story. So in that particular instance, with that particular keynote, I woke up in the middle of the night. And again, I'm slightly ashamed to say it. I should have known better, but I woke up and was like, "Wait, all I need is the story." So then I was very discerning about which story or stories I told.
But that 18 minutes was six minutes of a story, probably eight minutes of content with a little mini story told in there. And then one last story at the end. And to this day, I still have people that can recite back details of that story to me.

Chris:

Okay. Stories and storytelling, it's never been hotter as far as I can tell. Whenever I host a room and I talk about storytelling, if it's title storytelling, brand story, things like that, people get all crazy. They're foaming at the mouth. What is happening right now? Are you noticing the same thing?

Kindra:

Here's what's funny. It was like four years ago and someone, a speaking agent said to me, "Storytelling is definitely having a moment right now." And I was like, "What are you telling?" That was four years ago. I remember when I ... and I will say that something has changed. There started to be a bit of a buzz about it. Gary Vaynerchuk mentioned it I think back in 2011 or something, I think he had a quote about that. Sir Richard Branson had mentioned something about storytelling, so it was building a little bit, but it was just a whisper.
And I think really people are maybe waking up to the fact that, and I don't think it's been happening just super recently. I think it started about four or five years ago. And then I like to think that I'm partially responsible for it. I'm just going to say that out loud. I'm going to be like I kind of think, because I will say when I was pitching this message before it became a thing, I was getting turned down left and right. The sales pitching I had to do to have somebody want to hear about storytelling. It was exhausting. And now, yeah, it seems very obvious.
I think what's happening is we know now more than ever, it's having an even bigger moment now. It's the pathway to human connection, which is something that we've been desperate for. People are starting to see the value of that. However, I would argue that even though more people are talking about it, people aren't getting any better at it. I mean, look at the Super Bowl commercials this year. The storytelling is at that peak of interest. Those were the worst ones that we've seen in years. Right? So anytime. It's similar to, I mean, think about the words, authenticity, vulnerability. Anytime a word is always talked about and people are foaming at the mouth to get to it, it means that the meaning of that word is even more watered down.
So yeah, I would say that people are recognizing the need for connection, and that they're seeing stories as an easy pathway. But I don't think it's leading to better stories being told or stories being told at all honestly.

Chris:

I think maybe just in the very rational mind, we think we want to tell stories when we're around friends. It's how we relate and connect to people. I think I read this in your book. We tell stories to remember, to cooperate, to teach, to share, and to survive. It enables millions of strangers to cooperate and work towards common goals. And we think of that as supernatural. And it's how we've learned from our elders, and how we pass on knowledge to our children. But then when we get into the business space when it comes to sales, and marketing, and teaching, for some reason, part of our brain switches off and says is not what we're supposed to do. This seems to be the problem. Are you feeling that sentiment at all?

Kindra:

Yeah, that's exactly. So anytime I'm working with someone and we were talking about what a story really is, and what it looks like, and what it feels like, and what it sounds like, you can see them say in there, they'll either say it out loud or you can see it going off in their heads. Wait, I have all these stories. But I don't tell them.
And the truth is when you're using stories strategically, when you're using it with a specific goal in mind, whether that is to influence behavior, persuade. Or maybe it is just to stick with somebody longer. Because Chris, can I just point out that book about the physics class, or that story is not in my book. I only tell that story on stage. And we were together either in 2014 or 2015. And it is 2022 right now.
So even if that is your goal is to have somebody remember a message that you delivered six, seven years ago. But again, we get in there and we think that we get really caught up in our role. And so much of our professional roles require us to know so much and to have all of that knowledge. So we think that that is what we need to pass on. And actually, the point that I was making there was that using stories strategically, it does require extra effort. When we're telling stories to friends, you can tell whatever story comes up or maybe there was a moment recently that just happened to you, and you're like, "Oh my gosh." I just had a friend text me the other day. "Remind me to tell you this story about this email that I got." Right away I called her, I wanted to hear the story of the email. Right? And she can just tell it offhand, because it's in a conversation. But when you're trying to use stories strategically, it does require extra effort, energy work. You need to find a story that illustrates the message. You need to include the components that are not only compelling, but that are relevant. And there are some people who can do that on the fly. But even the best of the best aren't going to nail it.
I mean, I've been on a stage and a story comes to me that's just perfect for that audience and perfect for that moment. And even I stumble my way through it and I get to the end of it right there in front of how over many people. I'm thinking in the back of my mind, "Shoot, I wish I had thought of that story when I was prepping for this moment so that it was really ready to hit, to land." So ultimately, I think we're lazy. A lot of us do the things at the last minute. So having some stories ready, that additional prep is also part of the reason that I think it doesn't happen as often.

Chris:

Well, there's a phenomenon that happens at least sometimes with me. We're talking. I think there's a point to be made. And I think there's a story I need to tell here. I tell this story, and then I get lost in this story. And I forget what was the point I wanted to make with this. And then panic starts to set in because I'm landing the plane on the story. And I'm like what the fudge was I ... oh, right. It has to be this. So how do you prevent that from happening?

Kindra:

Well, that's what I'm talking about right there is the prep. Yep. It's the prep. And I would say that, here's the good news is when you're using stories in sales, or marketing, or your role, and you're tasked with delivering a set of messages, right? You need the message either that's about this particular topic or a message that is tailored to this particular group of people. And you talk to this particular ... maybe you're like, "I have to pitch to government offices, hospitals, and hospitality." So you have your set of stories that you use that hit, that land, that make the points for hospitality. But that's where it comes in is I would say have your set of. Because once you put that effort in, you could have three stories that you just tell over, and over, and over again, and through the repetition. I can't count how many times I've told that physics story. I could tell it in my sleep. I probably do. My poor husband probably wakes up to me mumbling that story.
But yeah, just having a set of three stories for a particular product, or pitch, or audience, the repetition will automatically make it so that you're not trying to figure out how to land the plane in the middle of a story.

Chris:

Very good. I'm going to ask this question on behalf of my friend. She's European. She struggles with telling stories. And I keep telling her, "Every time you tell me a story, it feels like you are a reporter talking about something objectively about some other person. I never feel your inner pain. You might talk about something and then you jump right over all those parts." And I think culturally for her, the way she was socialized, you generally don't share these kinds of things. I've noticed also with some European countries, not all obviously, people aren't that open with revealing who they are or emotions. And how does one person overcome that?

Kindra:

That's a great question. So first, let's start with ... and as you know, but in stories that stick, I outline the four key components that are what make a story compelling are what make them influential, that draw people into what I call the co-creative process, which is exactly what you want and where you want them. And emotion is a key component. And just as you said, it's not just your European friend. But this is one of the, as I see people on a storytelling journey, one of the first steps before they get all the way there is they do a good job of reporting as you said. What happened? And then this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened. Which isn't wrong. But without the emotion, you're really leaving a lot on the table.
Here's the thing that I think is kind of a misconception when people think about storytelling, and the need to be authentic, and genuine, and share pieces of themselves. Emotion doesn't mean being a contestant on The Bachelor. The emotions that you're sharing do not have to be the deepest, darkest, private pieces of yourself. Emotion is simply, it can be one of the most basic feelings that people have. And emotion could be that's valuable in businesses is frustration. Desire for if you're a salesperson, it can be that. That agitation that comes with solving the problem. It can be wonder and curiosity. It doesn't have to be revealing your broken childhood that has created the person you are today. Those stories are not required for you to able to use storytelling as a strategy and develop it as a skill. You get full permission to if you are not comfortable with sharing with hardships or things that you haven't worked all the way through yet, or things that you just don't want to be known for. By all means, don't tell those stories. You get to choose which stories you tell.
And Chris, let's go back to a few of the stories that I told you here today. I told you a story about a fifth grade class assignment. Told you a story about physics class. Now it's not that I don't want you to know who I am on my deepest level, but it's just not relevant for what we're doing right here, right now. So I think there is a lot of pressure when it comes to storytelling that these stories are ... I can't even put into words that have that thing. And that's just not the case. A story needs to have emotion, yes. But it can be just annoyance that a system is inefficient because we've all had those emotions before.

Chris:

So you're saying that you don't have to have a lifetime story hallmark moment in every story that you share?

Kindra:

No. And that's the biggest problem. That is what keeps people from telling stories is they say, "I don't have a story to tell," because they haven't climbed Mount Everest or suffered from and overcome a terrible illness, or experienced great loss in their life. Those are not requirements to effectively use story.

Chris:

Okay. So can we nerd out and potentially be somewhat academic and possibly debate on this? Because I want share some things I think about, and I give you full permission to disagree and tear me apart.

Kindra:

Okay. You can tell I'm a tear you apart kind of person Chris.

Chris:

Potentially. Here's the thing. I used to teach sequential design storyboarding, and I have to then do research, like what is stories? And stories are about conflict. And even though the moments don't necessarily literally are life and death, they need to feel like life and death. So when I teach it and I tell people when that person that you have a crush on in school is going to call you and your little brother or sister answers the phone, that feels like life and death to you. Or when your parents drop you off at a fancy restaurant and something embarrassing happens, like the car door falls down and everybody in the restaurant looks at you, that can feel like life and death. And I like to encourage people to feel the feels and then to transmit that to people, because then we start to relate to you as human being. So what are your thoughts on that?

Kindra:

If you were to have just said stories need conflict. Which yes. And again, I think it reminds me of when people say a story has to have a hero. Those are both such heavy words. And again, we think that conflict is, it's conflict. Where conflict is oh shoot. I only have four pages and I need five.
So the way that you described it there, that life and death, it was a different approach. But you're saying the same thing I am is that recognize the everyday conflict that we experience. And I think that so often when we say okay, story needs to conflict. People are like, "Okay, so there were the sharks and the jets. And they're snapping their fingers, and they're going to do some dance fighting." There's conflict, there's friction. All of these things are happening all the time.
So I'm opposed to saying a needs conflict and leaving it at that. Because I think the word conflict becomes a barrier in people's minds and keeps them from telling stories. But you didn't do that. You said conflict is oh my gosh, they're not calling me back. Or my brother or sister answer the phone and I'm freaking out. Right? But people wouldn't necessarily think that. They're thinking jets, sharks, Luke Skywalker, and Darth Vader, right?

Chris:

Yes. Forces of good and evil. All civilizations and nations depend on somebody making the right decision.

Kindra:

Well, and that's when they say a story needs to have conflict and it needs to have a hero. Well, you're thinking somebody in a cape. You're thinking someone with special, or maybe they were a fool and they became. Which then kind of omits you from the story. Because how many people walk around seeing themselves as heroes? Right? So an entire cross section of the population would never tell a story about themselves if it's to have a hero because they don't see themselves as heroes.

Chris:

Time for a quick break, but we'll be right back.

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Chris:

Welcome back to our conversation.
So you're doing something a little bit different than how other people try and teach storytelling, because you're trying to make this super accessible, right? So things that become barriers or challenges, mental roadblocks to us telling stories. So you want to soft the language. But between say two academics, do stories need conflict?

Kindra:

So the other aspect of how I teach stories is normal explosion, new normal. That's the framework it has to take. And I suppose innately in there is the explosion, which is the moment of change, which is the time it goes from being one thing to another. And anytime there is a change of state, there's conflict in that change.
So while it isn't something that I categorize in the four components, it is a part of then how these components fit into a framework that makes it a story. So the word then that I use is the explosion, which is the point where we go from one thing to another, which could also be called conflict.

Chris:

Maybe for you, it's a soft C in the conflict and not a hard C.

Kindra:

Yep. Exactly. Exactly. Yep.

Chris:

Well, you've been mentioning these four components. Can you tell us what the four components are just so that we have it ready?

Kindra:

Yeah. And what you said was absolutely right when it comes to my mission ultimately is I do want storytelling it to be accessible. It is such an incredible tool. And for people to think that they can't use it because they don't have the talent or the natural charisma, that's just wrong as far as I see. So that was part of the reason for having a framework and having those four components. So even the most analytical person could say, "Okay, I have to give a presentation about this data that we've collected. And it's really important that the people I'm giving this presentation to understand the true magnitude of this data. But they're not data people. How do I communicate the numbers?" Then they can have this list, this four component checklist of a story needs in order to be a great story.
So in no particular order, the four components are number one, an identifiable character. We need a person, a character that we can A, identify. We can see them as an individual. One way that people, especially in brand storytelling go wrong is they talk about the brand. And we're not doing business with brands. When it really comes down to decision makers, and who's selling, and what we're buying, we like doing business with the characters of the brand. And by using identifiable character, that also takes the pressure off instead of saying hero. Number two, we talked about this a bit more, but authentic emotion. And again, the word authentic in there to say it doesn't have to be tragic emotion, or big emotion, or over the top emotion. It just has to be real emotion.
The third component is a moment. We need a specific moment in time. And a lot of people will say that this is setting, place. But ultimately, and the reason I call it a moment is when you're telling a story, or you've written a story, or you're sharing a story, you want that moment when the person listening to it is sitting with you in the room. They're there in the car with you as you're racing to whatever it is you're trying to do. So to be able to create a moment where the listener can be in the story with you is essential for them to then carry that story forward. Just as I was telling the story, having people picture ... as I tell it, I'm talking about sitting at the desk. I'm talking about seeing my teacher in front of the room. And then at the end of the presentation, I'm like, "How many of you were sitting in the room with me?" And they were all like, "I pictured my science classroom," right? So that's really important for that co-creative process, and drawing people in. When we talk about getting lost in the story, it's that moment component that makes that possible.
And then the fourth component is specific details. Now this isn't to that you have to talk about the smell of the coffee and the sound of the air conditioner. And you don't have to go through all five senses. But just a few specific details so that the audience can picture that. Our brains love picturing these details. And again, it drives that co-creative process even further. And, specific details are also a really subtle way especially when you're using strategic storytelling to show your audience that you understand who they really are. If you're telling a story about a product, let's say it's a product for new moms. And you tell a story and it's about getting a stroller in and out of the trunk of a car. And you mention struggling with it and trying to collapse it, and the hinges that get stuck. Any new mom knows exactly what that feels like. So you get to use those details to your advantage. You're not only exciting that creative part of their brains, but you're also saying, "Hey, I know you."

Chris:

I think those specific details allow me to say you are speaking from a place of authenticity, because you're talking about certain details that only someone who's going through that would know. Then I'm open. I'm like okay, you're the real deal. Tell me more.

Kindra:

Yep. And the fact that you respect them enough to keep them in for their own enjoyment. I see a lot of stories, or when I used to work with organizations and they would have me write their stories for them. And God bless those of you who do agency work. It is just a brutal, brutal world to put your heart and soul into something. And they would send it back to me. "We need the video to only be 30 seconds. So we're cutting." And they just go through and cut the details, right? "We don't need to spend time on the Werther's Candy that was sitting on the desk at the bank." And I'm like, "But everybody knows what it looks like to have a small bowl of Werther's Candy sitting on the desk at a bank." Right? Yeah, it leads into that genuineness. And the details are often the first thing to go. So to see it as an essential component, it's important to keep them there, even just one or two.

Chris:

Okay. So the four parts, because I have notes on your book here. Identifiable character, there's a real person that has a personality that you can connect with. Having a genuine, authentic emotion. There's a significant moment and specific details. Those are the four parts. Question for you. Because I try to study performers, comics, actors, people who do public speaking at the highest levels. There seems to be a component of dialogue, either inner or outer dialogue. What is your take on that? Because I like to see people who are playing the characters in their story on stage as they perform. And it makes me literally laugh out loud.

Kindra:

Yeah. Yeah. That starts getting into technique, right? So I think that if you can do that and nail that, then by all means. But that starts moving into technique versus necessary components required for an effective story. But yeah-

Chris:

I see. Because typically when I guide people through this process myself, I say it needs to be rich in dialogue. There needs to be sensory detail. And there has to be this part where there's some struggle. We want to know that you're trying, that you're struggling to get through something. And I will jump into your story when I start to feel like I relate to you. People often edit their stories because they want to present themselves in a good light. And they skip over these parts. And I see what you're trying to do. This is a propaganda piece, and I'm not really buying into it. So on that, what kind of advice or opinions or thoughts do you have on that?

Kindra:

Again, I think that we can easily see through ... and it's not a great story when it's just a story about how awesome you are. And there is no variation in that ... you know when people are monotone? If it's just a story about how great you are, and how great you've always been, and there's no discovery. Or yeah. Inner dialogue of trying to figure it out. Yeah, those are the stories where people are going to be like, "There they go talking about themselves again."
However, I will also say that I feel like we've moved into, with that in mind. And we want to be authentic. We want to be our true selves. We don't want to hide our flaws or our mistakes. There has also been kind of a distortion where there is strategic authenticity, where it becomes like, "I'm going to tell you a how stupid I really am. And look at this thing that I messed up." And you can almost tell that that's fake too. It's kind of like what are your strengths and weaknesses? "Well, one of my weaknesses is that I'm just so committed." It has that same kind of feel. Exactly. It has that same kind of feel. This is where I went.
Or the temptation too to be like, "Okay, I need my story," it goes back to the emotion thing. "I need the story to be super emotional. So I'm going to tell my deepest, darkest, or saddest thing." But it isn't actually serving the purpose. You're there to serve. You just want to make someone emotional for no good reason, except to make them emotional, to experience the emotion.
So that would be the other side of authenticity. I see it a lot in social selling actually where it's like I was so down and out. And every story is about how down and out, and how this was wrong. And this was bad. There can be too much of that too, self-deprecation

Chris:

So it comes down to this thing where does it pass the smell test? Are you engineering something that feels manufactured and disingenuous? And if it is, your audience is going to smell it a mile away, right?

Kindra:

Yeah. Yep. And I think too that a key thing is you start incorporating stories into the work you do. And especially if you are telling the same story over and over again, it's important to always for you as the storyteller, to tap into your enthusiasm, and your purpose, and your true desire of what is possible for the person who is hearing this story.
I think about actors on Broadway a lot where their job is literally every day to take this thing. Creativity, the gift of performance. And they are supposed to walk to the exact same spots and say the exact same time, sing the exact same notes. And they do it sometimes twice a day, sometimes eight shows a week. How do you do that without just going crazy? You feel like a little Broadway robot. And it's because they're think about the audience and who could be sitting in that audience right now that is experiencing this. So there is that aspect of discipline and the X factor of enthusiasm to have excitement of what this story that you're sharing, what it can do for someone.

Chris:

On that note, I'm curious about something, because I think you hinted at it earlier. Which is when you go and tell a story over and over again, and if you feel like the audience, they saw you in one venue and they see you in another venue, do you get self-conscious? Like, "They're going to know that I've learned a story really well and I'm giving it again." And I'm curious about that.

Kindra:

Yeah. So this actually goes back to my very early years as a storyteller. And I grew up after telling that story in fifth grade, then going to storytelling festivals and listening to storytelling tapes where really all they do, there was this huge storytelling festival. It's called the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee, where every year, it's not even a one stoplight town. There isn't even a stoplight. But they put up these huge circus tents, 15,000 people flood the town, and they bring in storytellers who stand on the stage and just tell stories about life. And people from ages, all backgrounds are there to hear these stories. And if you go year after year and you see the same tellers time after time, you hear the same stories.
Now they are good with having some variety. However, when you start to hear someone tell a story that you've heard before, a few things happen. And you love the story, right? The story was you start saying to yourself, "Oh yes, I get to hear this story again." Right? It's like reading your favorite book or watching your favorite movie. So if you've done a good job with your story, which let let's assume that you are, they will forward to when they start to hear it, they'll be like, "Oh right. I loved this story." And we don't remember everything, right? So it's good to be reminded of a story.
Second, and this is true for all of us, but unless they heard it earlier that day, which you should prepare for that. If you know you're going to have a repeat audience, you should have several different stories that illustrate different points, or even different stories that illustrate the same point. But when we come back to hear a story and we end up hearing the same story, we come back as different people. We've learned something. We've grown as listeners. We've learned something different. Or maybe we've taken in what you taught us in that story and just that moment to reflect back on who you were when you heard it the first time. It's really cool marker for your progress.
So I would say yes, there are times where I will have been invited to an event and then I get invited back the next year. And year over year, does the content change drastically? Not unless I've written another book. Right? So I always ask, what is the crossover going to be? And if 100% of the audience heard the exact same presentation the year before, then yeah, I've got to give them something more. That's my responsibility. But if you've done a good job with your stories and they're hearing them for a second time, trust in those two things.

Chris:

Okay. So if you are on stage, and they film the event, and they release it on the internet, now that story's being played over and over again. Does that impact or change your answer?

Kindra:

They're not allowed to watch it. They're not allowed to record it and put it up on the internet. That's why I'm like Chris, I can't tell you my story. This one of my stage time stories. No. It sounds funny, but that's a contractual thing. Yeah. Because that is my content. However, even that being said, you can read a story in a book and then hear an author talk about it on a stage, and it's thrilling. You go to a concert to hear the artist sing the songs that you know. Right?

Chris:

The hits.

Kindra:

Yep, exactly. So there is a difference. And again, and this is an important distinction to make. We are not talking about memorizing stories. Though I've told to some of my stories hundreds of times, storytelling, and I've said it a few times is a co-creative process. Which means it is being created there in the room. It is a living, breathing contract between the storyteller and the story listener. So the words may be different. The asides could be different. There's going to be things that they give you that you then share in a different, it changes the course of the story you were telling just slightly. So it's a big mistake to make, to go in and tell a memorized story where it's word for word, because you're missing a big part of storytelling, which is letting the audience help you create it. So it's never the same.

Chris:

Well, so from the audience point of view, here's something that's happened. I'll just lay it out there and get your reaction on it.

Kindra:

I want to hear it. Yeah.

Chris:

I'm watching Simon Sinek. He does his talk. It's beautiful. It's amazing. And then I watch him do the same talk somewhere else. And here's the part that's shocking to me. The same awkward pauses, the phrasing, the jokes. They're literally the same beat for beat. And I'm having so many different conflicting thoughts. First, it's impressive that Simon has memorized this talk and can deliver it this way. But I feel like the magic, somebody showed me the magic trick and it's not magical anymore. Because what felt like a genuine, I'm just going to pull it from the ether. It was actually highly scripted, rehearsed, memorize, and then performed. So I get all self-conscious about this, because I do a talk and someone literally tells me, "I'll be at your next talk in two weeks." Just one person said that to me. That's all. So then when I went there and it was already contractually booked to do the same talk, I changed it and it was not as good. I took out the joke. Because if they heard that joke before, they're going to think the same thing about me. What's your reaction to this?

Kindra:

So here's the reaction. When you speak as often as Simon Sinek does, there's a flow of how it works. And it isn't rehearsed, it's scripted. It's just well honed. I mean, you're not mad when you go to Broadway and they're singing the song the same way that you heard it on the soundtrack before you got there. Or when you go to the show and you hear the soundtrack afterwards. So this is where that becomes their art. And that is the sign of a true professional. That is the expertise. To be able to be so in the moment as you're telling the stories, that the audience feels like it's the first time. Right? So that's the mark of a professional.

Chris:

Right? Like standup comics have to do the same thing.

Kindra:

Yes. And yes, it changes and there are nuances. But if you know what works in your message, don't change it because one person might have heard it before. If anything, you said that joke and they'd be like, "God, I loved that joke." Right? And they feel it coming. They're like, "I'm going to laugh right here." That's what they're thinking. And only the people who are like, "Wow, that was the same." They've got a whole different agenda. You're speaking for the people that are there for the first time that are there that need to hear the stories that you're there to tell. Oh yeah. I feel strongly about this, Chris.

Chris:

Yeah. I like the way you're helping me to reframe this because speak rather objectively here, would I rather have one person's like, "Oh my God, he's telling the same joke at the same point in time." Or do a worse job presenting to a whole audience who have not heard you before. I'll risk it next time. But this is very real. I'm not making this up. I did change it. And it wasn't as good. It just wasn't. I knew it.

Kindra:

Well. And Chris, this actually goes into the second book that I wrote, which is Choose Your Story, Change Your Life. Which isn't about the outward stories we tell, but it's about the stories we tell ourselves. And that you illustrated right there one of the big challenges with just simply the way we're programmed is you are as a human going to pay more attention to one negative. And it wasn't even a negative comment. They just said, "I'm going to be there next week." They did not say to you, "I'm going to be there. It better be different. I'm not going to laugh at any of your jokes if I've already heard them." Right? So your brain took that information in and wanted to keep you safe. It recognized it as a threat. So it started you on this whole journey and then it started reminding you of the time that well yeah, you heard Simon Sinek do it. And it was the same. And it gave you a whole bunch of stories. So now, I've given you a new story. So should that come up again, you can say, "Actually no, Kindra told me the story about Broadway actors. Kindra told me the story about this." And then tell yourself those stories so that you take the action you know better serves you and better serves your audience. Don't give them a crummy presentation. No. Yeah. I'm here for ya.

Chris:

Thank you very much. You got my back. So I've been talking to Kindra Hall. She's a much after sought after keynote speaker. And she wrote this book Stories That Stick, which is about telling your story externally. And her latest book Choose Your Story, Change Your Life is about the internal story. Is that right?

Kindra:

That's right.

Chris:

It's beautiful. Now I'm going to say this. And I don't do this that often. I recommend certain books for people to read. If you want to be a better storyteller, and who here who doesn't? If you're a parent, you should be a better storyteller. If you're an executive, a manager, if you're in sales, if you do public speaking, if you write. I'm just going to tell you right now, I've read a lot of different books on storytelling. This is the book. If you have to read one book and buy one book, get stories that stick. And I can't wait to dive deeper into your second book Choose Your Story, Change Your Life. I have a question for you. I assume, it's an assumption, it's dangerous, that you're an extrovert. Are you?

Kindra:

Oh Chris, this is a touchy subject because I just had a revolution as far as that is concerned. But okay. According to Susan Cain who is a friend of mine and wrote Quiet, I am an extrovert. Yes.

Chris:

Okay. So you bring with you certain kind of extroverted energy and comfortability or comfort with speaking with people. So we are like, "Yeah, of course she's a great public speaker." But my community, people in the creative space predominantly are introverts. I am an introvert myself. I aspire to be a better public speaker. I aspire to overcome my natural tendencies. Can you give us some practical advice, tips, or tell us a story about how we can hone our craft? Because we don't want the extroverts to have all the fun.

Kindra:

I know. And the answer is just, it's going to sound so simple. So here's a story. I had a friend who she was a physician, researcher. She had to speak at a industry conference. I can't say whether or not she's an extrovert or an introvert, but she was uncomfortable. Giving presentations was not something she was comfortable doing. And additionally, it was a notoriously critical audience. It was not a super welcoming, everybody's so happy that she's here. She could basically get up there and do whatever she wanted, and people would love it. So there was fear. She was very concerned about this. And my recommendation was, is going to be a shocker to you to start with a story.
So if you are an introvert or someone who isn't big stage energy kind of person, but you do ... either it's part of your job or you know it's something that you need to get better at even more so than other extroverted people who really could. I mean, I've seen them, I've seen the speakers who don't tell any stories. They give very little concrete information, and they kind of just jump around on stage. And look, what are you even doing? But the audience loves it just because of the show. Right? So if that isn't you, it's even more important then for you to find a key story. Let's say you have a presentation coming up, or you have a communication event that's on your mind that you're like, "Oh gosh, I really want to do well, but I'm not exactly sure how. I know who I am when I get up there." To work on right now, finding a story that illustrates the point that you want to make, and start honing that story right now.
Because here is what happens when you tell a story. And this is why I strongly encourage it for people who feel more introverted. Again remember, you don't have to be super emotional. The conflict doesn't have to be huge. We just need those four components and for it to follow that normal explosion, new normal arc. Even better, if there little bit of self-deprecation, Chris likes you to have some dialogue going back and forth.
What happens when you start with a story is your audience likes hearing stories. So when you signal to them that this first part is going to be a story, the DNA within them says, "You get to hear a story." And they are excited about that. They look forward to that. I mean, you think about anybody who gets up and starts with even just a short story. And I've seen it so many times when I'm going to speak at an event and the CFO has to go up either right before me or right after me, and their team coach is like, "Hey, you're going to be following the storyteller. You need to have a story." Which is against their nature entirely, but the audience loves hearing it. And you can feel that energy shift when you start with a story, especially if it's a story that you've worked on. You know that this story's going to do what you need it to do. The energy of them, the hostility drops. And they're just more open. You feel that, which then in turn makes you feel more comfortable as a presenter.
So there's this incredible reciprocity that your story ... and then we like telling stories more than we like just standing up there, and reciting information, and making sure that we have it all. And wondering if they're listening or if they're bored. So if that's something you struggle with, starting with a story gets the energy in a place where you will become more comfortable. They'll be more excited, and the whole presentation gets better from there. Now of course, that requires that you work on it in advance. Find some of your colleagues, trusted friends, community members who you can tell the story to and see what they think about it.
For me, before I put a story on stage, I have to tell it out loud to myself in the shower, in front of the mirror. I tell it out loud to my husband. I walk around town saying it out loud, but I live in New York City. So you're allowed to do that. But, talking to yourself while you're walking down the street is completely acceptable. So the formula is there for creating a story. You can create one. You can test it out. And then when you get a on stage, it will make you better.

Chris:

Yes. Okay. I realize we're a little bit over time. Can I ask you one more question?

Kindra:

If you ask me two truths and a lie Chris-

Chris:

I'm not [crosstalk 01:02:25].

Kindra:

Okay. Okay. Okay.

Chris:

All right. You're a national champion storyteller. This is what you've studied. You have a master's degree in this. You're an extrovert. You have a lot of reps in the game. Tell me what it's like for you, the five minutes when you're in the green room backstage prior to them announcing or introducing you, and you kind of feel that. What is going through your mind? What is your physical and emotional state? I want to know what Kindra Hall is like backstage.

Kindra:

That is a great question. I used to be absolutely miserable. That was actually one of the big stories that I had to choose better stories to tell my myself, because there was a point at which I thought I cannot continue with this job because I am too miserable, too racked with fear in the time leading up to the presentation. I just can't live like this anymore. So I had to get really strategic about the stories I told myself before going out on stage. Before going to SearchLove, I can't tell you how ... I remember sitting in my hotel room. I stopped in the ballroom where other people were presenting. It was like you were all speaking a different language. Talk about imposter syndrome. And they'd interviewed me to get on stage. And they were like, "Well, let's just see how it goes," was the final okay, you get to speak. We'll just see how it goes. I mean, the number of times I wanted to just run out and never come back, I can't believe that I ever even set foot on that stage in the end. So I had to get really good about the stories that I told myself right beforehand.
Now having made that, knowing what stories I need to tell myself, making it a practice to do so. Backstage I'm a lot, I mean there's the nerves. But it comes from caring about what you do and I want to serve the audience well. But now I'm just hopeful, excited, and really filled with gratitude in those moments. However, I will say now with the new book, it means a new keynote, all new content. And I kind of feel like in some ways, I'm starting all over again. And I'm seeking out those stories that I can tell myself about why I belong here, who needs to hear my story, what I know to be true. So it was ugly for a long time, and every once in a while.
So for two years, I was delivering keynotes from my bedroom. They were prerecorded. They were on Zoom. So the first event where I went back and I was live and on stage, I had all of that inner storytelling. You can't do this anymore. No one's going to learn anything. And I was like oh wow. We're back here again. Luckily, the recovery time was much shorter. But yeah, to think that it's without pain or agony is not entirely true.

Chris:

It's actually not a super optimistic picture of where you all can be. Because Kindra studied this. This is her life's work. She's written two books on this. She's a national champion storyteller. She goes to that town where everybody shares stories and that's her people. And she still has moments where, "I got to tell myself a different story, because I'm not feeling good right now."

Kindra:

Well and I think that's what it anything, use that story for yourself. Because I think when we feel that way, when we're really nervous, we start saying, "It's because I'm an introvert. It's because I'm not good. It's because in there must be something wrong with me." And it's not true. There's a reason everybody says they're afraid of public speaking. It puts you in an immediate fight or flight state. You have a whole audience of people who may or may not like you. So it's normal. I think that's the thing that I would want you to walk away with from that story. You're normal if you feel that way beforehand.

Chris:

If you're interested in learning more about Kindra, I most definitely want to recommend you pick up both of her books. Stories That Stick, and then Choose Your Story, Change Your Life, and probably just stalk you on social media. Because you're very active at storytelling, practicing your craft all the time I see. You're very busy on Facebook I think. That's usually where you post the most or not?

Kindra:

I'm usually on, I would say Instagram and then I move it over to Facebook too.

Chris:

It starts on insta, and it moves to Facebook?

Kindra:

Yeah. Certain content works better on one or the other. So sometimes yeah, there might be more on Facebook, sometimes more on Instagram.

Chris:

And for people who want to find out more about you, where can they go?

Kindra:

My website is kindrahall.com.

Chris:

It's super easy. Kindrahall.com. Just like it sounds, there's no weird spelling .com.

Kindra:

Well Kindra with an I. So that gets created, Kindra Hall instead of Kindra. [crosstalk 01:07:30].

Chris:

I never thought of spelling it the other way.

Kindra:

That's because you're a true friend.

Chris:

Well, I hope that our paths cross soon. I hope that we're able to see each other on the circuit now that it seems like things are opening up again.

Kindra:

I would love that. And please let me know any way that I can help you. I'd love to hear more about what you're teaching people these days, and I'm sure there are audiences that I know that could hear more from you, Chris.

Chris:

Well thank you very much, Kindra. It's been a real pleasure.

Kindra:

Pleasure's all mine. I am Kindra Hall, and you are listening to The Futur.

Greg Gunn:

Thanks for joining us this time. If you haven't already, subscribe to our show on your favorite podcasting app and get a new insightful episode from us every week. The Futur podcast is hosted by Chris Do and produced by me, Greg Gunn. Thank you to Anthony [inaudible 01:08:30] for editing and mixing this episode, and thank you to Adam [inaudible 01:08:33] for our intro music.


If you enjoyed this episode, then do us a favor by reading and reviewing our show on Apple Podcasts. It'll help us grow the show and make future episodes that much better. Have a question for Chris or me? Head over to thefutur.com/heychris, and ask away. We read every submission and we just might answer yours in a later episode. If you'd like to support the show and invest in yourself while you're at it, visit thefutur.com. You'll find video courses, digital products, and a bunch of helpful resources about design and creative business. Thanks again for listening, and we'll see you next time.

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