Telling your story

When you make a vlog and people start watching it, an amazing thing happens.

It’s the same thing that happens when you have a conversation, when you sit and watch a movie, or when you read a phenomenal book you simply can’t put down: a story is being told.

Regardless of the quality of the story, it is being told nonetheless. Information is being transferred, worldview is being shared, and an idea is spread beyond just one person.

Before modern technology, stories were passed down from generation to generation through the spoken word in an attempt to preserve culture and way of life. Spoken stories were joined with written stories, whether through cave paintings or runes scratched into parchment.

Telling a story is nothing new, there are just more ways to do it now.

Making a vlog is telling a story. It might not be a literal “story” with chapters and all that, but it is the spread of an idea, the sharing of perspective, and the invitation to something more.

Many people are uncomfortable to get in front of a camera (we’ll talk about that next) and one of the primary reasons is because they’re not sure what to do or say. We get weird in front of a camera! So what do we do about that?

Telling your story (or a story) can come in a multitude of different ways, but I’ll give you two simple examples today on how you can craft a story through your vlog.

Tell a story…literally

I wrote on a previous page about how your greatest advantage in the world is that no one else has lived your life.

This means any experience you’ve ever had is a story that can be shared.

To be clear, you shouldn’t share everything in your life. There are memories and moments that are special and private, and you need to keep those for yourself. But if you’re not sure what to share about, you can literally tell a story from your life!

There are days and weeks where I don’t feel like vlogging. Either the situation in my life seems a bit bland or maybe I just simply don’t feel like vlogging.

These are the days where I pick up my camera and tell a story.

Here are a few tips for simple storytelling from memory:

  • Share an experience or moment you had in the past as you remember it. The more descriptive you can be, the better.
  • Be sure to give context to the story and not simply give the punchline right away.
  • Visual aids are a great asset if you have them. Photos, items, anything that may have been connected.

It’s true that storytelling is an art that requires practice, but if you’ve ever shared anything about your life with anyone else, you’ve already done it.

Note that this can be from any point in time, even five minutes ago! It doesn’t have to be something from way back in your past, it could have been from yesterday.

This is a great way to engage with your audience and is simply the easiest way to start getting vlogs made.

Show, don’t just tell

The other great way to tell a story is through the situations and environments you will actually record.

Most vloggers grab the camera and point it at themselves and talk, and while that’s fine, you can give greater context and add significant interest to your vlogs by showing it.

One of the easiest examples of this is done through the much overused (yes, I do it too) downward shot of feet walking. You point your camera down while you’re going somewhere and record your feet.

This may seem kind of silly at first, but what is this shot saying? It says they’re going somewhere. The viewer immediately knows that a transition in location is happening.

Transitions like this give greater context to what is happening and allows the viewer to move along with you.

Film directors use these kinds of transitions all the time. There’s a scene happening in a city where the characters are talking about going on a hike in the mountains, and in the last shot of the scene the camera pans up toward the distant mountains. The next shot following is maybe an aerial shot of the mountain forests, or of the car barreling down the highway through the mountains.

Another example is one I’ve used:

  • The camera tilts down at the floor and there’s Coco Pops everywhere.
  • The camera walks a bit further and there’s a spoon and a bowl spread out away from the cereal.
  • After a pause, the camera tilts up to spot a little figure sitting by the window.
  • The final move goes down toward the child, who turns and smiles with food residue all over her face.

Without words, I’ve communicated that there’s a giant mess and that someone is responsible. With a bit of pacing, this can be a very humorous moment for viewers of your vlog.

We’re still telling a story here, but in a way the viewer is in control of how they are perceiving the story. They are coming up with the words in their head as you guide them along.

Showing is definitely one of my favorite ways to tell story, and while it takes a bit more practice than simply speaking, it can be a great way to improve your vlogs and connect with your audience.

The story can be about anything

Maybe you don’t want to vlog about your life. Maybe you want to vlog about your business or the organization you work for.

These principles still apply no matter the subject. Sharing stories about work you’ve done for clients or bringing the camera along to fundraisers and events are great ways to communicate to your viewers what you’re about.

Making a vlog for your business or organization can be one of your greatest marketing assets, as well. Many companies operate behind a shroud of secrecy and privacy, resulting in a disconnect between them and the customer.

By opening up the doors a little bit, you can demonstrate that the people in the company are real people just like their customers, and that can make all the difference.

Quick thought on storytelling

I knew that as I wrote this section there would be many things left unsaid about storytelling. I admittedly left a lot of things out:

  • The hero’s journey
  • Conflict and resolution
  • Escalation and climax
  • Demonstrating change
  • And many other things…

“Where are the legendary X Rules of Storytelling? Where are the guides on how to ramp up conflict and resolve it by the end of a seven-minute video? Where are the…”

The reason I left out all of these things in this particular context is for two reasons:

  • Vlogology is primarily focused on helping you get started with vlogging.
  • There are already many resources and videos out there on how to tell better stories.

Many people feel stuck when they think about vlogging. I’m not here to showcase how to become the next storytelling master. I’m here to help you get started.

Improvement will come and you’ll find your own story flow. Getting started is more important than getting it “perfect”.