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Storytellers FAQ´s

How do I choose a topic for my story?

If you are participating in an ULUstory Experience, likely the group participating will have commonalities - perhaps you’re the IT team, or you’re a group of mentees, or members of a particular resource group at work. Often, we choose the topic of a story based upon what message we want to get across to the listeners. Let’s say you are a team member and want to convey how you learned to overcome mistakes. We can all think back on mistakes we have made, and how we responded. For example, it might be the story of how you were chosen to present an award to a well-known sports celebrity, and walking up the stairs, you tripped and fell. But despite ripping your shirt, and losing a shoe, you got up, and bravely kept walking to deliver the award. And the celebrity raises your arm, and says, “THIS person is the champ, not me!” So the topic might be “Falling Up.”

How do I create my first story?

In our opening workshop, you will walk through creating 2 very short stories. Then you’ll have access to the ULUstory app,,which will walk you through a simple set of prompts to answer questions. When you are ready, the app will create a full word document or recording of your answers, so you can see or hear the story as a comprehensive whole.You can always go back in and edit.

Who can read or listen to my story?

Anybody you choose to share it with.

Will my story be shared with other people?

Yes but only if you choose to do so. Nobody else can go into your “story suitcase” and read or listen to your stories.

How long should the story be?

U-stories are generally best served “live.” That is, told by their creator rather than read on paper (or electronic device). 

Are there any resources that can help me to create my story?

Many! At ULUstory, we provide a wide set of resources, from digital modules to sample written stories, to stories you can listen to from diverse podcasts.

Where and when would I want to share my stories?

You can share your story, or different versions of it, in a wide range of different contexts at work.Here’s a few: when talking with your ally group, mentoring or being mentored, onboarding, being interviewed for an internal promotion, delivering a presentation, resolving conflict with a coworker, in nurturing clients, in sales.

Do stories need to have happy endings?

No, definitely not. They don’t even have to have a “definite” ending. The most important thing in telling a U-story is explaining the choice you were presented with, how you made that choice, what consequences resulted, and how this changed you (or didn’t!). Some of the best stories are about bad choices.

What’s the difference between a story and an anecdote?

Anecdotes are a set of facts which may be amusing, interesting or illustrative, but they have no deeper meaning. A “U-story,” on the other hand lets us know that things started one way and ended a different way. Stories create space for changes. The structure of a U-story makes it memorable, provides a depth of meaning, and moves the listener to a new perspective.

Why can’t I change the order of the elements around in the app?

U-stories are designed to create the “dramatic arc” that neuroscience recognizes as critical to generating cortisol, oxytocin and dopamine in the brains of the storyteller and the listener. Cortisol literally “makes us pay attention.” Oxytocin, known as the “moral molecule” or the “love hormone,” creates a sense of trust and familiarity between the speaker and listener. Dopamine drives our desire to take action related to the story told. As you get better and better at crafting your stories, you will become increasingly creative...Just as musicians learn and practice scales - essentially patterns - repeatedly to develop and improve both their technique and their creativity, storytellers too learn underlying patterns which then allow you to improvise, craft and tell evermore subtle and engaging stories for any occasion.  

What are the different purposes of telling a particular story?

We tell, and listen to, stories for many reasons. 

  • To communicate a moral or ethical code (like parables in religious writings) 
  • to share cultural norms 
  • to create a sense of community 
  • to inspire
  • to make ideas “sticky” and memorable 
  • to make friends 
  • to find meaning in seemingly random situations 
  • to “connect the dots” of our lives 
  • to craft our life narratives which so deeply affect how we see ourselves and how we think others see us 
  • to explore or establish or explain or claim a particular identity
  • to communicate a life lesson
  • to share vulnerabilities and strengths
  • to persuade
  • to establish commonalities amongst seeming differences
What’s the difference between a story’s “topic” and a story’s “theme”?

A story’s topic relates to the story's “what.” It's driven by facts and specifics, such as the time your apartment was flooded by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In contrast, the story’s theme deals with the big picture and overall meaning that reveal why the story matters, for example “family always comes first.” A story’s topic could be when your dog, Chunky, got into a fight with another dog - the story’s theme might be friendship and loyalty. 

And what is a story “plot”?

The plot is the main sequence of events that make up the story. In short stories like the ones ULUstory helps you create, the plot is usually centered around one experience or significant moment, when you had to make a choice.

Can I get coaching to help me write my story?

ULUstory provides a minimum of 30 minutes coaching to every user (that’s you!). Our coaches listen to your story, give you feedback and suggestions, and help you discover your innate storytelling skills!

How do I overcome my fear of public speaking?

There are many different ways, and we provide resources on this as well as “delivery coaching.” We think three ways are particularly helpful. First, practice telling your story over and over - to your mirror, to your pet, to friends. This allows your body to effectively “memorize” the story so that when you tell your story inpublic, your body is comfortable already with the process. Second, you can reduce physical anxiety lots of ways, including eating a banana, drinking chamomile tea, going for a very brisk walk, using large muscle groups, and deep slow breathing. Finally, don’t worry about making a mistake. We all make mistakes, and the audience is cheering for us. 95% of the mistakes you make, the audience won’t even realize. And the others? Acknowledge them, and move on. Audiences actually find mistakes to be authentic. In fact some trial lawyers deliberately make a mistake in front of the jury, like dropping papers on the floor, to get their sympathy.

Is it better to read my story to the audience from my notes or tell my story without notes?

U-stories are generally best served “live.” That is, told aloud by the storyteller rather than read aloud or read on paper or electronic device by the listeners. And, when telling a story live, it is always best to tell the story “extemporaneously,” so it sounds impromptu or unrehearsed, as if you are speaking to a friend. Of course, you should prepare carefully, but tell your story without notes. Why? When reading your story aloud from your notes or manuscript, your voice will tend to sound flatter, with less variation in tone, pitch and speed. In addition, your eyes will be focused on the paper, rather than making eye contact with your listeners. And you will have fewer facial expressions. All of these - vocalics, expression, eye contact - make you and your story more engaging. 

My story is only a few lines - how do I make it a bit longer?

Sometimes we need a story to be longer or shorter. With ULUstory format, it is very easy to simply sign into your account, and add additional facts and information into one or more of the prompt boxes. 

How do I know how long it will take to tell my story?

Most people speak at an average speed of four to five syllables per second. Most words are two to three syllables long, giving you the answer that the average person speaks approximately 100 – 130 words per minute. You can download your story as a Word document and check how many words it contains, then go to this site which will convert the number of words into an estimate of how many minutes it would take to read it aloud.

Is it better to use certain kinds of words in a story?

Yes it is. Our listening brains tune out words heard many times: amazing, fun, awful, big. But listening brains actually “light up” and react to newer or more descriptive words. Instead of saying a food tasted “terrible”, say it tasted “bitter” or “slimy” or “cloyingly sweet.” When our brains light up, we pay more attention to the speaker and we also better remember what we are hearing.

How do I make my story more engaging when I tell it?

One very effective way to make telling a story more engaging is to vary your “vocalics.” That is, HOW you use your voice. You might speak faster or slower at particular times, or change the pitch of your voice. You can drop your voice to be very quiet, or you can increase loudness. 

Can I go back into my “suitcase” and edit my stories?


Can I use the same story for different purposes?

Of course. A story about a mistake you made, for example, could be used for an inspirational speech, as an informational speech, telling a mentee, sharing with teammates, or even in an interview when you want to demonstrate that you learn from your mistakes.