I've been thinking about stories lately (or more accurately I've been telling stories, practicing) and you basically have two essential ingredients to a great one:
In other words I'd say 'What' and 'How', of course 'who' and other such questions are important but let's keep them aside for now. If we're creating stories, the content is the foundation of a story and it's indissociable from the delivery, how we're going to take that stuff and share it or bring it to the attention of another. The blend of content and delivery is what makes a story great.
Stories are also interesting in that memorable experiences can make great stories and in turn a great story can become a memorable experience of its own. Memorable experiences can also be created and given I prefer practice to theory, here is a story for you:
I was in London a few months ago in February and spent an evening with Adam, one of my best friends at the Red Dog Saloon. It was a Monday night, there was no particular occasion aside from the fact that I was going to leave soon and probably not be back in town for a long time. I learned with interest that the restaurant offers a Hot Wing Challenge: Eat 6 big chicken wings doused in a sauce made with the hottest chili in the world in 10 minutes or less, then wait 5 minutes 'burn time' with no food or drink. If you succeed, you get your photo on the Wall of Fame.
Given I am a fan of Adam Richman of Man v. Food, I had never tried something like that, and most importantly I thought that would make the evening memorable and had the potential to be a great story to tell. Sure a bit of sufferance might have to be paid but what's the price of a good story? Or at least that's the kind of sensible rationalising that went on in my head about it. It could be I'm just a bit crazy. There was not much else going on that quiet Monday evening so I created the entertainment by taking on the challenge.
After consideration and discussing the challenge difficulty level with Adam and the waitress (very difficult apparently, that one time a woman completed the challenge and then immediately ran outside to be sick on the pavement) I decided to go ahead. I was given a responsibility waiver form to sign before the challenge began. The restaurant also wanted to make clear that they were not responsible if all hot wings after these would seem bland and tasteless.
The heat was so intense I was immediately crying my eyes out, sweating, and my nose was running. Eating fast also meant I had more sauce smeared all over my face and fingers, meaning more burn surface. My face was a pretty contrasted white and red apparently. Meanwhile Adam was laughing at me, live tweeting the event and taking photos. 'It's hot, it's really really hot' is the only thing I think I said.
I felt much better the morning after. Since then I've been perfecting the telling of the story and I told it to great success to several groups of friends and family. Practice and experience are important parts of the delivery. This blog post is also different way of delivering the content. I have loads more stories for you whenever we meet up, and I've been practicing my own storytelling as well.
And you know what? I don't regret doing it whatsoever. You may not want to try the Red Dog Saloon Hot Wing Challenge, but you will come across other opportunities to create memorable experiences and potentially great stories. Take them, you won't regret it and you might just start developing a different perspective on what good content and delivery are if that's a part of your line of work.