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Storytelling for your Small Business or Non-Profit with Alex Blumberg

Storytelling. It’s the buzz-word currently, as organizations from huge corporations to tiny startups realize that the sale is made in the connection to the user.

Storytelling is something that I am fascinated by, and it’s something that is nearly always on my mind, for the last couple of years. I’ve purchased various courses and books on the subject, and it seems in a way, similar to say, dating. There might be guidelines, suggestions, but the real magic happens when you get your hands dirty and find your own methods.

Alex BlumbergAlex Blumberg is my favorite radio-storyteller that I’ve come across. He’s worked for NPR on various wildly successful programs, and since then created a successful podcast startup, called ‘Gimlet Media’. If you’ve never heard his podcast Startup, I highly recommend that you check it out.

I had the good luck of attending a talk by Alex Blumberg in Brooklyn, NY recently, and I took some notes. I hope that they are helpful. This is mostly about radio interviews, but it can be applied more broadly to storytelling.

First, he said to think clearly about what you are going for before you interview someone. When it comes to a captivating interview, you are looking for stories. Anecdotes. You are looking for tales, where the listener would be pissed off if you stopped before the payoff. They’d scream “What happens next!?”

To illustrate this point, Alex played an audio-clip of someone retelling a story, and cutting right before a dramatic interaction started. 

Next, Alex built out a visual diagram of a typical, good story.

A good story is made up of:

  • A sequence of actions (quoting dialog is good)
  • Details (a kid’s acne, the clothing he was wearing, etc.)
  • the punchline. Something surprising, something interesting.
  • the moment of reflection, where the interviewee is reflecting on what happened. We are looking for “emotional honesty.”

In every good story, we are looking for a moment. A moment of humor, of honesty, etc.

Alex normally auditions a lot of people when looking for a good storyteller for one of his episodes. He needs someone who can tell a story with great emotional honesty.

P.S. – For another great resource on storytelling, check out this blog post on Storytelling Arcs, by Neville.

Categories: Storytelling