Reigning Moth storytelling champ Margot Leitman teaches us how to tell compelling, absorbing tales …

Reigning Moth storytelling champ Margot Leitman has been hired by everyone from Facebook to the wide-reaching ad agency Universal McCann to help them learn how to tell compelling, absorbing tales:

Make people root for you

In everything from politics to acting,” says Leitman, “the way to get ahead is often to get people to root for you.” In terms of storytelling, this means you should do two very important things. First, quickly and clearly make an introduction. Second, present yourself as the underdog. People want to root for the underdog. It gets them on your side. So, humanize yourself. Admit your faults and eccentricities. People don’t relate to perfection.

It sounds stupid, but …

… every story has a beginning, middle and end. When you’re nervous, utilizing that structure can be easier said than done, but without it, you ramble, you jump around in time and it’s hard to follow. People aren’t sure what your point is. Ever heard a wedding toaster or a professor go on and on and about nothing and realize you just wasted precious minutes of your life listening to them? That’s because there’s no structure.

Stories aren’t about what happened, they’re about how you felt

“It’s really not what transpired that makes a good story,” says Leitman, upending conventional wisdom. “It’s about how you felt about what transpired.” The plot of your story is almost irrelevant when it comes to making a connection with your audience. “It’s not a matter of, ‘We won the game.’ It’s, ‘How did you feel when you won? What did you believe was impossible that now suddenly you can do?’”

Good stories are universal

Every story needs a facet your audience can relate to. Leitman remembers a student who began a story, “So I went to Yale.” The story could have meant: “So, I went to a really fancy, expensive school” as far as the audience was concerned. Instead of making that mistake, identify what part of your story is universal and relatable, then run with it. That way, people will continue to listen to see if you reacted to that universal event the same way they would.

Have a few go-stories on hand for when you need 
to shine

Have a polished story or two ready to go in your repertoire in case you need to make an impression. Being a great storyteller is a sign of mastery, good memory, and emotional intelligence; all things that are attractive to friends, potential mates, future bosses and any pets you might subject to your mindess rambling.