Telling tales in school

Other than vain self-promotion, why is being a good storyteller good for the fire service? It’s because good stories are memorable. Firefighters that are nearing retirement have a wealth of experience that needs to be shared with the younger members. Good stories can be a tool to transfer this knowledge and experience to new members in a way that they will remember.

Have you ever wondered why some firefighters’ stories are so captivating? If you’re like me, you’ve always wanted to tell better stories but don’t know how. Chip and Dan Heath have a six-step outline that, if followed, will make your stories as interesting and memorable as an urban legend.

Successful storytelling requires a SUCCESsful outline:

  • Simple: “Make (your story) as simple as possible but no simpler” – Albert Einstein. Find your core idea, what you want the audience to remember above all else and focus your story on that. Novice storytellers overload listeners with multiple key points, making the story too big to remember
  • Unexpected: TV, cell phones, laptops, and gaming systems are all competing for their attention. To hook your audience, start your story with something that will pique their curiosity. The Heath brothers call this “opening the knowledge gap”
  • Concrete: Don’t be afraid to describe the important details. Descriptions help the audience visualize what you want them to see. Just remember to keep the details focused on your core idea.
  • Credible: This should be easy to follow, so long as you stick to sharing fire service stories that you’ve actually experienced. Don’t embellish; your audience can sense it
  • Emotional: Like it or not, good stories have a touchy-feely component. Give your audience something to relate to you in your story to keep them engaged. Stay away from abstractions
  • Stories: To convey your idea or experience, use stories. No facts, figures, or PowerPoints needed. Just stories will do

You’ll have everyone at the firehouse willing to lend their ear if you stick to this outline. To get more help on your storytelling, visit the Made to Stick website for free resources. Before long, you’ll be telling stories your firefighter won’t be able to forget, just as I haven’t forgotten this public service announcement for high fructose corn syrup. Watch how this video incorporates the six principles of SUCCESs to make their core idea stick.

So get to work on your stories, someday they may save a life.


About Josh

I am the Recruitment & Retention Coordinator for the Boone County Fire Protection District.
This entry was posted in Leadership, Training Officer. Bookmark the permalink.

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