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Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation when you realize you have to wrap up – and fast? But you have yet to make your point? If you could be speaking to a busy, influential person, learning how to be succinct while telling a story is a smart step. Here are three tips that can help you shorten your story while maintaining your desired impact.
- Be lean. Say as much as you can in as few words as you can. That includes cutting out phrases like, “To cut to the chase,” or “To make a long story short.” With limited valuable time, you want to quickly lead your listener from where you are to the final point of your comments. Think of the two or three main stepping stones you need to give your listener to get her to the other side of the story.
- Analogize. Assume the other person intelligent but does not know the details of your hobby, job, team, or organization. When you are short on time, you want to leave out the details and – if it can help you – use an analogy to hurry the understanding. For example, to describe where you fit in an organization, you can quickly compare your role to a part of a car.
- Structure. To help you be succinct with your stories, consider using the situation-action-result style. This is how you probably speak normally, but doing so more consciously will make it easier for you to get your point across. Here’s an example of the situation-action-result style from a college student who had a class scheduling dilemma:
“The class seemed available on the schedule, so I tried to sign up. I didn’t get the section I wanted (situation). I asked my instructor to override the roster headcount so I could attend that section of class (action). He did not override it so now I have to take the class at 7:45 in the morning (result).”
A student in a social interviewing scenario could say something like this:
“A few of the younger girls on our volleyball team wanted to be starters (situation). As a senior starter, I offered to work with them before and after practices (action). Three girls ended up improving their skills enough that they started frequently by the end of the season; I was so proud of them (result).”
What strength do you think she was attempting to convey in this bit of conversational evidence? Was her story short? Humble? Interesting?
What can you accomplish by eliminating extra sentences and words, using analogies to hasten understanding, and using a framework for telling stories? When the pressure is on, will you communicate your point effectively, convincingly, and quickly? When you can answer that question with a yes, you will be sure to impress others.