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Really Short Stories

It’s a thing now – storytelling events feature very short stories (either 99 seconds or two minutes).  Storytelling organizations often have slams or competitions around these, with the audience voting on stories – I am not a fan of slams but have won a few of these mostly for short stories.  Here is advice on how to do a very short story:

1.      Think SMALL. Your goal is to focus the audience’s attention on a single experience, a moment, one thing. So, the entire story of your first trip to Europe is not going to work. But how you lost your luggage on the way there or discovered first class travel in an accidental upgrade or how you missed your flight can work. It’s one thing expanded and amplified into something more.


2.      Fewer characters and details are better – this is true for storytelling in general but for very short stories it is essential. Help your audience engaged by keeping it as simple as possible. More detail and characters create a kind of public speaking friction for the audience - this means they will be working harder to keep track of what you are saying. This can diminish the impact of your story (if I am working hard to stay with you, I am not really listening and engaging with you).



3.      Where you start matters - start as close to the middle or the climax of the story as possible – short time means we don’t need the preamble. In most storytelling I would argue our preambles are less than helpful…. get to the point and do it fast.

Examples of short stories:

This advice also applies to how we tell business stories and pitches. Short, simple, shorter, simpler.

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