compass with the words "orient your audience" written above

If you want to tell a good story, the first thing you want to do is help your audience get oriented. It makes it so much easier to get sucked into the story. Here’s what I mean.

Example of bad storytelling intro (no orientation)

I was talking to this guy the other day…” OK. So far, we know nothing… who were you talking to, where were you, what’s happening and why does it matter?

Example of good story intro (includes orientation)

Last Tuesday, I was at the airport, on my way to catch a flight to Boston. This guy, who looked like a pro skateboarder, sat down and started charging his phone. We got to talking…

Now, with this example, you’re able to picture it. Of course, everyone’s mental picture is different, and the details that catch the attention will differ from person to person, but everyone is thinking about what you’ve set up.

They’re oriented, and primed to hear what’s next. You’ll notice that there’s no reason in this example for the audience to care. Not hyetm anyway. But you’ve given them enough to think about that they should listen as you dive deeper into the details and lay out the interaction. They’re expecting something interesting, and you’re about to deliver it (we think).

The other reason people will keep listening is that you’ve shown not only that you care in orienting them, you’re also demonstrating that you know how to tell a story, so they can relax even more, feeling that they’re in a safe pair of storytelling hands.

So, make sure you include some detail up top, to help your audience get oriented so they can relax and enjoy what you’re about to say.