Tony Robbins is one of the most famous motivational speakers and coaches in the world. His clients include Oprah, Kim Kardashian, Nelson Mandala and Hugh Jackman. Why is Tony Robbins so popular? One of the reasons is his ability to tell a story in a clear and compelling way.
Robbins says that "Stories are one of the most powerful tools you can use to engage and connect with your audience. The power of a single story goes far beyond simply relaying facts and data and can be a highly effective tool....Stories emotionalize information. They give color and depth to otherwise bland material and they allow people to connect with the message in a deeper, more meaningful way."
On his website www.tonyrobbins.com he suggests that "not all stories are equal." There are ways to differentiate our story from others. He suggests three things:
1. Connect to emotion
According to film maker and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, Peter Guber "emotion combined with information becomes memorable and actionable." When we tell our story of conversion to Christ, we should open our heart and let people see how deeply it effected us.
2. Be authentic
According to Robbins "people have a sensitive radar when it comes to those trying to manipulate or take advantage of a situation" and evangelists are often accused of being manipulative. Peter Guber gives the advice, “Be interested, not interesting, or else the audience will never take it in.... the power of storytelling is not a monologue but a dialogue."
3. Know when to stop
This is a sign that we are listening rather than pontificating. Robbins suggests "Don’t just fire information at an audience if the environment isn’t right. Assess the situation and see if the time is right for the power of a single story and the message it will convey."
The Book of Acts is a good place to study the power of storytelling, after all it is the story of the early church in dialogue with itself and others. Consider how in Acts 2 and 3, Peter tells a story about the meaning of the Day of Pentecost or Paul in Acts 9 recounts his Damascus Road experience.
In Acts 21:17-21 the Message versions says:
"In Jerusalem, our friends, glad to see us, received us with open arms. The first thing next morning, we took Paul to see James. All the church leaders were there. After a time of greeting and small talk, Paul told the story, detail by detail, of what God had done among the non-Jewish people through his ministry. They listened with delight and gave God the glory. They had a story to tell, too: “And just look at what’s been happening here—thousands upon thousands of God-fearing Jews have become believers in Jesus!"
This is the power of story. It is vitally important that this story is a message intertwined with our own personal experience of coming to faith in Christ. According to Acts 4:33 it says:
"And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all." (ESV)
Look at the story of the man delivered of Legion in Luke 8. Jesus told him “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” (Luke 8:39 ESV)
There is a Holy Spirit grace upon our testimonies, God will use our stories to connect with the spiritual hunger within a person, so look for opportunities to share it.
What can we do to grow in our ability to tell our story? First, learn from others who are good at it. Who are the engaging storytellers? Are they comedians, scriptwriters, preachers, life coaches, other evangelists? Watch what they do, consider their delivery, how long did they speak, in what ways did they engage with people, did they use props, personal examples?
Second, practice on people who know you, let them give you feedback. Are we using the three suggested practices of 1) connect to emotions, 2) be authentic, and 3) know when to stop? Perhaps we should have an online workshop where we give feedback to each other? After all, it is a skill and the goal is to communicate Jesus in a way that they encounter him.
Third, have good theology at the core of your message. Do we understand the gospel, have we included the biblical essentials? Perhaps study examples in scripture where people communicate the good news. Did Peter do it differently from Paul, what about Philip the evangelist with the Ethiopian eunuch? You will discover that context is very important, what we say to who and when is important.
If you have any great examples of storytellers please share them with this blog, I'd love to hear them.