In this day and age, it’s important for everyone to understand how to tell a compelling story. Award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien joins Skillshare to offer her insight and advice for telling your great story – whether you’re an entrepreneur, young professional, marketer, or simply eager to craft a great narrative.

From gathering information to keeping it authentic, Soledad speaks in-depth about her best practices for telling compelling stories in the digital age. Compiling her learnings from CNN, MSNBC, and HBO, here’s a list of the 8 most notable lessons from Soledad’s Skillshare class: Powerful Storytelling Today: Strategies for Crafting Great Content.Take Soledad’s Class

Great stories are complex

“The key is to remember to tease out someone’s humanity is not to put them in a box. Remember that people are nuanced, complicated, and messy. If you can weave a story together that discusses all of those complications, I think you can have some great success.”

Great stories are authentic

“If you’re trying to pitch a story that’s not authentic, people will come back with 25 stories proving the exact opposite of what you’re trying to pitch. So I think for corporations, the key thing is to not only tell a story, but to make sure it’s authentic. It has to be real.”

Great stories include challenges

“Most people’s path is not, “I started here, and it all went smoothly from there.” The way it usually works is it doesn’t work perfectly all the time. I think it’s important to capture those challenges because you’re telling a real story about real people.”

Great stories are supported by details and data

“As I tell people all the time, God is in the details. The details are what will bring a person to life. For me, the data points have always been critical…we’ve always undergirded our work with data to give context and help build understanding.”

Start with a simple idea that catches your interest

“We often start with a question that’s stymied us, like “why is college so expensive today?” Often it starts with the idea that we believe there is a story, but we don’t know the details yet.”

Build an in-depth knowledge base about your subject before the interview

“No one’s going to sit down with you and tell you every single thing, warts and all, about their life. At the end of the day, the power and the responsibility is in the hands of the interviewer. It’s your job. Everyone’s going to pitch a perfect story to you all the time. It doesn’t behoove them to tell you a story with ups and downs, they want it to be a perfect story. A good interviewer can figure out how to get to those challenges by knowing them before you get in the room with somebody.”

Let things breathe

“When you’re interviewing people, the feeling is you don’t want to have dead air so you’ll jump in right away. But really people say the craziest stuff when you just let them talk, so I think there’s value in saying nothing. Literally saying nothing. Get comfortable with awkward silences, because in the awkward silence often they’ll start babbling about something and you can start getting to people’s true reactions.”

Listen, listen, listen

“We as human-beings are terrible listeners. When you report, you have to actively listen to what someone is telling you so you can the next thing you want to ferret out from their remarks. As you get better at interviewing, you realize that you can go into a conversation with just one question and fill an hour with just that one question because if you do it right you can elicit something that brings you to the next interesting question. That’s good listening.”

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Written by:

Dennis Williams