5 Steps for Successful Storytelling
It’s true. Everyone has a great story to tell, but not everyone tells it in a way that can really connect. The online space is the perfect venue for sharing your story with the entire world, but if you make a mistake with its delivery it might as well be collecting dust in your home office.
That’s why we love Mindy McAdams’ advice on creating an audio slideshow with Soundslides to tell your story in the most efficient, impactful way. McAdams is a Professor of Journalism at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. She put together this series of slides that will help you take your story from concept to creation. The piece is intended specifically for journalists, but can apply to any type of Soundslides production you’re making.
Step 1: Evaluate Your Story Idea
McAdams makes recommendations for considerations that will help you avoid pitfalls down the road, for example, do you have access to the idea you’re considering? Is your story visual? She recommends considering different angles for photographs and emphasizes establishing any key characters. These are great suggestions and can help you conceptualize a great story idea. We’d also like to add one more in this step and it is this – Consider Your Audience. If you know who you’re telling your story to or for you’ll be able to answer important questions like, how long should I make this story? And what types of things does my audience really need or want to know? What will motivate them to keep watching? Basically, why will they care? Considering the needs of your audience will also help you ask better interview questions and take better photos.
Step 2: Photos
One of the biggest questions you’ll have when you start shooting photos will probably be, how many photos do I need for my slideshow? McAdams recommends about 1 photo for every 5 seconds. For a 2 minute video that’s about 24 photos. Another thing to consider though is that for every 200 photos shot you can plan on getting 20 good ones. What’s this mean? Shoot lots of photos, about 10 times the number of photos you plan on using! If you’re running out of content try McAdams’ suggestions about getting different angles, different zooms – up close and wide angle, and shooting things that are interesting to see. You’ll also want to pay attention to specific things or ideas your sources mention in their interviews – if you missed these things or concepts in your initial photo shoot, make sure to go back and shoot more before production so you have everything you need. If you’re unfamiliar with your story concept, the characters, or details involved, I recommend doing interviews prior to shooting and then follow up your photos with any questions you may have after shooting.
Step 3: Captions
Collecting captions is not only good practice it will also help you tell your story. Every meaningful picture should have a caption including people’s names, places, and dates. Soundslides captions can also have a very powerful effect on Search Engine Optimization efforts, so if you’re looking for ways to increase traffic to your website or capitalize on important keywords related to your business, providing captions on your Soundslides images will make your content searchable.
Step 4: Audio
For most of us audio will be the biggest hurdle and also the most important part of creating impactful Soundslides project. Sound is rarely something that most of us isolate. So how do you become audio-aware? The best way to start is to close your eyes. When you’re at the photo shoot, try closing your eyes for a moment to gather in the sounds. If there is something specific that is important to your story, make sure to capture it with a professional recorder. Interviews should always be done in a quiet place, but what seems “quiet” often includes an air conditioner buzzing or passing cars. To get really good audio it is absolutely essential, let me repeat, absolutely essential to have a high quality microphone (more on this later). Couple that with a wind screen to block out background noise for the most professional sound.
McAdams makes two especially important interview tips. The first tip is to make your interview about feelings and experiences instead of facts. Facts can be easily written into captions, while experiences express emotion which will give more meaning to your slideshow.
The second tip is that the listener should not hear the reporter’s voice in the audio. It can be challenging to “turn off” your inner empathizer – it’s natural to want to laugh when someone says something funny or say “hhmmm-mm” to show someone that you care about what they’re saying. The best way to handle this is prior to the interview. Explain that you’ll be recording the interview and will being consciously trying not to interject while they’re speaking to retain the audio’s quality. Try non-verbal listening cues such as smiling, making eye contact, and nodding to keep your interviewee comfortable talking.
Step 5: Story Structure
Every story has a beginning, middle, and an end. McAdams recommends putting your ending together first, then the opening, and lastly filling in the middle. Personally, I think that when you’re creating an audience-centric piece, you’ll want to consider the opening first to make sure your viewers are motivated to watch. The best openings grab viewers’ attention. They might pose a question that takes the whole piece to answer or they might provide a bit of foreshadowing. The very best endings create an emotional response to take action. This is exactly the type of ending you’ll want to create if you’re using Soundslides to produce a marketing piece. For strictly journalistic pieces, the best endings and pieces change you or your perspective as a result of watching.
We hope these suggestions for Successful Storytelling help you when you’re producing your next Soundslides piece. Have an interesting piece to share? Don’t hesitate to contact us!