Asking your self these two related questions (what is the story, or what is your story) can be useful at many levels. You can think of it as a brain hack if you are trying to figure out your life. Or you can think of it as a simple self check if you are building a scientific presentation, a business proposal, a class talk, etc.
Your life story:
Many people in various stages of their lives are trying to figure out what they are really going to do with this thing called life. Ask yourself what is your story, or what story do you want to tell with your life. I know this might sound strange – but give it a try. Think of it as an creative exercise. What do you want to be the take home message of your life – what is the meaning of your life?
Your talk’s story:
As for the more practical everyday tip – think of the various talks you have to give – a simple talk in class, a business presentation, a job talk, or for us in science – a science talk – be it your latest research, or your entire Phd. Ask your self what story are you trying to tell.
Too many times the presenters get lost in the minutiae of their particular topic (especially true for scientist) – but usually the vast majority of your audience is not a specialist in your particular niche, is which you are a world class expert in. So try to provide a story for them so they become engaged and most importantly leave with your take home message.
Think of all the talks you have listentened to – in 90% of the cases you are just trying to get the take home message (unless it is in your very specific speciality). So for most of your audience it will be the same thing. Give them a coherent story – and sure you can fill up the middle section with a bunch of details (sceintific or otherwise) which they won’t remember but is part of your evidence (which they have to buy into) – but give them a story so they leave with your take home message.
So next time you think about your life, or building a talk – remember to ask yourself; what is the story, what is your story?
For more about the importance of story see Eric Nehrlich piece here.