Lesson 3: Engagement

Storytelling Education - Lesson 3

Audience Engagement

Lesson 3 in the storytelling short course deals with the subject of audience engagement. This further expands on Lesson 2: Story Craft.

The Way You Tell it!

A lot of storytelling is not just about the content, but the WAY you tell it.

Our brains shut down quickly when we hear monotonous, monotione, unemotional, unanimated, rambling, data heavy and non relevant speech. Reading this is probably conjuring up a rather unpleasant image and I’m sure you can remember a time when you’ve been on the end of this!

One way to keep engagement is to always be changing. ALWAYS.

Remember: Variety is the spice of life!

Think: high – low, fast – slow, happy – sad, energetic – relaxed, and so forth…

Communication of your story can only be successful with engaging and genuine delivery. You want to create strong emotions and curiosity in the audience and end on high note.

Also, it is strongly suggested that you plan out the emotional journey you want to take people on, the the goal emotion and plan the series of emotions you want them to travel through at each part of the story. You control the emotions of the audience with your words!




  • Predict event and see them unfold
  • Work out puzzles of understand whats going on (ie. like a mystery)
  • Connect dots before you do (in your story)
  • Think about what things you ‘just have to’ find out about

A good way to think about this – is picturing those moments where the thought of somethings has been equal or greater than it actually happening.

This is ANTICIPATION and it is what locks people’s attention on you and your story. Reading this brief article is definitely worth your while: Psychology Today – “Shopping, dopamine and anticipation”

Variation Suggestions

Below are examples of things you can vary to stay in flux (constant change):

  • In essence:
    • Give people something, then change before they get bored of it!
    • The more contrasting there variation, generally the better
    • Describe / evoke emotions then talk about things / events
    • Give people something they like then take it away or make it feel like they could lose it
    • Vary the way you use your voice to create drama and emotion

#1: Topics / Scenes / Situations / Locations

  • Take people to different locations in their minds (geographical, state of mind, etc.)
  • Pique interest but you don’t need to give all the details just yet…
  • Keep an element of mystery
  • Unexpected changes or events are great (twists in the story)
  • Foreseeable events that inevitably unfold are great
  • Remember to use tension and suspense

#2: Voice

Aspects of your voice that you can vary include:

  • Tone
  • Volume
  • Tempo
  • Pitch (deep / high)
  • Pauses
  • Accent
  • Intonation / inflection (rise, falling, dipping, peaking)
  • Speed

#3: Body Language

The way you use your body, helps to create authenticity and reinforce the things you are communicating with words. Body language is mostly just a process of knowing that it is important and then freeing yourself up mentally to use it. It should just come naturally, but you may need to exaggerate a little bit on stage so people can pick up the visual cues.

Having these things in mind, and practicing going through these body language postures can help connect your mind and body.

You need to note that just standing there can create a level of incongruence, where there is a discrepancy between different the subtle cues you give off which will tell people’s subconscious mind to not trust you and switch off.

  • Closed / open
  • Angel: Frontal, oblique, side on
  • Large / small
  • Powerful / weak
  • Confident / shy
  • Shifting / Relaxed / Energetic
  • Nonchalant / thoughtful

#4: Emotion

These are some emotions you could take yourself and the audience through. It can be good to label these through a story. These can be used to create emotions in the audience directly – “you know that feeling….” or through empathy / honesty (people appreciate this).

  • Happy / Sad
  • Excited / bored
  • Joy / Humiliation
  • Relief / Regret
  • Scared / Fearless
  • Confident / Anxious
  • Fulfilled / Despair
  • Connection / Loneliness
  • Rejection / Acceptance
  • Love / Hate
  • Dry / Colourful
  • Starical / Honest


In Lesson 3, we have audience engagement and ways that you can use to hold their attention.