Tricks for getting to the core of your story (Part 3)

Doug Neff

Written by

Doug Neff

The thrilling conclusion to our 3-part series on Story-Coring tricks. Don’t skip part 1 and part 2!

3. Baptism by Fireslideology

Sometimes you need to jump into the water before you know how to swim.

Stand-up comics do this all the time, trying out new material on an unsuspecting audience. Though not necessarily the most fun or comfortable, this one is probably the most effective tool for refining your story.

First, you’ll need an audience. Nothing formal, just one or more generous souls willing to listen for a few minutes. (I often use Meera, my cat, though her criticisms are rarely helpful.)

Got your audience? Good. Now, this isn’t a brainstorming session. This is you telling the story you want to eventually tell with your presentation. This is you stumbling through it, repeating yourself, making mistakes, saying “um” and “like” and “sooooo…”. This is you not knowing exactly where you might end up at the end. And this is you feeling uncomfortable and freaking out a little.

Feel that lump in your throat? Yep, that’s what it should feel like. You aren’t prepared. You don’t have any slides. You haven’t even worked out your whole story yet. Why would you want to tell it to someone?

Do it anyway.

It’s simple: every single time you try to tell that story, you’ll get to know it just a little better. Like a stand-up comedian, you’ll gradually learn what works and what doesn’t. They’ll ask questions you can’t answer. You’ll stammer and grumble and do your best to think through it. New stuff will pop into your head. And before you know it, you’ll have figured out what your story really wants to be. And then you’re ready to start building your presentation!


Okay, if you faithfully practice one of those tools long enough, you should be able find the core of your presentation story. However, if you still aren’t having any luck, you might need to go old school and try this one:

Bonus Trick: Think Really Hard

That’s right. Think really hard. Get yourself to a quiet place and think. Spend time with your story. Write it out. Then write it out again. Then think about it some more. And don’t give up until you have it. When all else fails, good old-fashioned stick-to-it-iveness always comes through.

Good luck!

This is the conclusion of a three part series. Read part one and part two.

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