by Tracy Johnson
History’s Greatest Storyteller lived over 2000 years ago. He started a movement through words and actions. Jesus the Storyteller would have been a great radio personality.
He loved stories. We know this because He told them all the time. He told them in the streets, at dinner, with friends on the road, at synagogues and even on hillsides.
Jesus told stories that connected to the people and places he lived. If you’re on the air, you are a storyteller. And you can learn from His example to transform your show, and perhaps change your life!
In the seminar History’s Greatest Storyteller, I share 18 lessons we can Jesus’ storytelling techniques.
Here are highlights of five of the most useful:
Jesus had a target audience. He studied them, understood them and cared about them. His core audience was small. His broader audience was everyone.
Before launching his “campaign”, He carefully selected a small, targeted P1 audience…a loyal core of 12 followers. You probably know them as the disciples.
Like you, he welcomed anyone. And he wanted everyone, but he realized many would not respond to his personality. An audience of 12 isn’t a movement. But by focusing on stories targeted to a narrowly defined target, He excited them.
This small community of followers spread Jesus’ message all over the world. The audience grew. He became notorious, then famous.
Apply it: Focus on a core audience. Identify them and know them. Build a detailed composite audience persona. Then empower that fan base to recruit others. But understand: not everyone will become fans. That’s okay.
When He told stories, Jesus used great storytelling techniques. His hook was always through the audience’s experience. Jesus’ audience couldn’t relate to who He was. I mean, how could anyone understand what it is to be the Son of God? So the stories referenced everyday concepts in their lives and were about things being discussed in the community at that time.
If Jesus were here today, he would tell stories about cars and athletes, celebrities and technology, relationships and the workplace! He may even comment on the Kardashians. But each story would have a point. He would hijack the topic.
Apply it: Design interesting stories that hook listeners with familiar, relevant references. The only way to command attention on your personality is to cause listeners to relate to your message. That will put you in the center of the conversation.
Jesus’ parables demonstrate artistry in design, story construction, unity, coherence, balance, contrast, recurrence, and symmetry. He implemented the five elements of story structure.
Hook. He got into stories quickly, wasting no time. There was no PPM in the first century, but He absolutely understood the importance of a strong opening line to get attention quickly. Read the stories. They’re quick and compelling with no wasted time.
Set Up. Jesus sets up each story with a central character, then provides enough detail to paint a picture. Every story is laced with drama with friction.
Dress Up. He told his stories with forward momentum, but allowed enough detail and depth to make it real and meaningful to the hearer.
Pay Off. Jesus built stories to a high point that taught lasting lessons. He was prepared and knew exactly where the story was going. There was a destination and a planned conclusion.
Black Out. He knew when it was over, and left the audience wanting more. Sometimes they begged Him to continue, but He left them to make their own conclusions. This forced each to think, and develop meaning from the story.
Apply it: Practice storytelling by learning the five steps for successful break/story construction For more details, check out Storytelling Basics Seminar on Demand.
Most parables end with a surprise, an important ingredient in storytelling.
Apply it: Find unexpected, surprise endings. In preparation, ignore the first ideas. It’s almost always common and listeners can see it coming a mile away. Find a unique, entertaining angle that will delight the audience and keep them coming back for more.
Jesus’ stories were dramatic. He created dilemmas that made folks uncomfortable. A great story, well told, and with drama, needs to be heard just once. That’s the beauty of dramatic simplicity.
The stories used friction to connect with emotions.
Pick a side:
Contrasts simplify a story and message. Reducing options makes everything easier.
Apply it to your show: This is the practice of narrowing the choices. Limiting possible outcomes makes it easier to understand. Offered simple choices, content comes into focus. Fill in the blank or multiple choice questions create stronger reaction than asking broad questions.
These are just a few examples that demonstrate how Jesus revealed His character through stories. There are 18 lessons in my Seminar on Demand History’s Greatest Storyteller.
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