I recently watched several videos from experts Ira Glass and Jad Abumrad to learn how to be a more effective storyteller. Ira Glass is the host of This American Life and Jad Abumrad was the creator and former host of Radiolab. If you haven’t listened to these podcasts before, I highly recommend them. I’m a huge fan of Radiolab.
I started by watching “Ira Glass on Storytelling” on YouTube. In Part 1 of this series, Glass makes it clear that storytelling is very different than the five-paragraph essays we all learned to write in school, which is perfect for me because I really hated writing those!
I appreciated how Glass broke down the storytelling process into two building blocks: Anecdotes and Reflection.
The anecdote is a series of events. Glass explains, “This was happening, and that led to this. After that, this came next.” This creates a story that the listener feels like is taking them somewhere. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or boring, as long as it takes the listener on the journey.
Glass also emphasizes the importance of the moment of reflection in every story. This is where the listener will ask, “Why am I listening to this?” At this point your story, better have something good or the listener will leave disappointed.
In Part 2 of this Ira Glass series, my biggest takeaway was knowing when to call it quits on a project. He’s absolutely right about this and it applies to more than storytelling. Don’t waste the time on a mediocre project when a great project is waiting to be created.
Next, I watched Jad Abumrad’s interview “How Radio Creates Empathy.” Abumrad describes how audio storytelling is actually a co-authorship. He makes the analogy of the storyteller painting a picture, but the listener is holding the paintbrush. This reminded me of how it feels to watch a movie after after you’ve already read the book. When you read the book, you use your imagination to bring the words to life. When you later watch the movie, it’s disappointing because it looks very different than what you imagined.
While written stories and audio stories have this co-authorship in common, the audio medium creates a deeper connection between the teller and listener. This is due to the power of the human voice. As Abumrad explains, “The human voice has so much information in it.” The nuances of the human voice create both an immediacy and intimacy to the storytelling experience.
I already knew who both of these experts are, but I had never seen or heard any of their content outside of their shows. It was interesting to hear their perspectives on their craft.