When I was young (and sometimes still now), my mom would say, “Kathryn, the Reader’s Digest version, please!”

I loved to tell stories.

And I loved to talk to my mom. Still do.

Reader’s Digest is the largest subscriber-based magazine in the world. It features short stories, jokes and advice. SHORT stories. I loved reading it when I was younger. But I couldn’t for some reason, tell a story succinctly like the “Reader’s Digest version.”

It’s easier when you write. When you write, you can go back and edit over and over and over. I highly recommend that. We’ll talk about that in a moment.

When we’re telling our story on stage, during a wedding toast, in a job interview or even just on a date, we don’t have that editing function always working in our brain. We can drone on and on… which isn’t good. If your editing skills aren’t honed, you could be seen as boring, annoying and worse, it could actually cost you that job you’re hoping to land.

That’s why preparation is key. You can prepare for job interviews and other times you’ll tell your story in public by rehearsing the answers to the most common questions you expect to receive. You know what people will ask you. You’ve been asked the same questions before, so prepare! Don’t go into any important conversation or interview without first outlining what questions you may receive and how you should answer them. Don’t forget the worse questions too. What’s the absolute hardest questions to answer? Be ready for them.

Write your story, toast, elevator pitch, speech or those job interview answers out. Once you see it on the page, it will become more apparent what can stay and what needs to go.

Tell your story over and over, and do it out loud. Find someone you trust to tell you the truth. Tell your story to her a few times. You’ll find yourself cutting out the pieces that just don’t feel like they add value. Tell the person you’re practicing in front of to stop you where they get bored, where they feel they had enough to get the point and where they are no longer entertained. If you’re practicing your thirty-second “elevator pitch,” try it on for size at networking events where you have to introduce yourself to dozens of people a night. Or even five. Whatever the number is — you’re practicing, and that’s important. 

Record yourself telling your story. Listen to your delivery. You will notice your energy wane when you’re no longer interested. If you’re bored – that’s a good signal to cut that piece out!

Be okay with the editing. Develop a thick skin, but also stay vulnerable. This is your story. Your baby. Your life history. It’s important to be passionate about your story, but at the same time, be okay with the editing. Know when to let go of what’s not as engaging to other people. You can always tell that part of the story during a follow-up question at the end of your presentation. When the mission is to engage, entertain and teach — edit out the pieces of your life or the lesson you’re sharing to what’s essential and entertaining. You have one shot to keep your audience.