In its simplest form storytelling is a connection of cause and effect. A narrative helps us make sense of the world around us. In fact, our informal conversations are dominated by stories; researcher Jeremy Hsu found 65% of our conversations are made up of personal stories and gossip – “who did what to whom?”
Great stories surprise us; they have the ability to spark emotions, whether it’s happiness, anger, trust or guilt. They have compelling characters. They make us think and make us feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that numbers and text on a slide with a bar graph don’t. Fundamentally our brains are more engaged when listening to stories and studies show that when information is communicated in this way people will better relate to and remember it.
Story telling has been used successfully in brand advertising for years. Guinness has come up with some great marketing stories such as their “Empty Chair” ad where a bartender leaves a pint of Guinness at an empty table every night. No one sits at the table, and the woman shoots a dirty look to anyone she catches eyeing one of the empty chairs. Without fail, the Guinness is there every night. It’s a powerful image that serves as a sign of hope for the bartender. But we aren’t exactly sure who the beer is for until the very end. Everything comes together when a soldier finally returns home to claim his Guinness.
Lego’s “Let’s Build” ad is another great example of storytelling in advertising. The ad features a father and son bonding over their Lego; it shows the two of them creating fantastic skyscrapers with their enormous Lego collection. For a second you forget that it’s advertising toys because all you see is the perfect home life parents and kids are always dreaming of. And so a story unfolds.
Although storytelling is a timeless human tradition, unfortunately it has become a lost art in many businesses. Instead of taking the time to craft captivating stories, most people in business create dreary Powerpoint presentations; you could say Powerpoint has killed our ability to tell good stories, and this is a habit we need to change.
However, a word of warning! – storytelling works on a spectrum – at one end you have BIG stories – like legends, epics and fairytales – at the other end you have small stories such as examples, recounts and anecdotes. When starting out in storytelling it’s best not to try too hard – start small with your stories until you get more confident. And try to build a bank of stories – funnily enough they don’t always pop in your head when you need them. In the meantime here are a few of our top tips to help you on your way:
Surprise your audience
When you set out to create your story, it’s always good to start by revealing an important fact or detail that isn’t common knowledge or includes an unexpected turn of events. Try to hook your audience by sharing something that no one would expect because when it comes to storytelling, predictable plots won’t engage anyone.
Get to the point
Although you need to hook people in, it is also really important to get stuck into your messaging as quickly as you can. Stick to relevant details if you want people to listen to your entire story, as most people don’t have the patience or the time to hang around! Choose two or three main points that people will actually care about and focus on those — things like money saved, number of users, growth over the years are all effective examples.
Think about your purpose
What’s the point of your story? Are you informing or teaching your audience, are you trying to sell them something or are you just engaging with them to make them feel inspired to act? Make sure you have a single message that you want them to take from your story.
Everyone makes mistakes or does embarrassing things every now and then, but being honest about those less than perfect moments will make you and your message easier to relate to. Share those painful lessons you learned. Even the simplest things like a spelling mistake in a text can show your human side.
Overcome the odds
Talk about a few of the challenges you have overcome, such as rejection or setbacks. Tell your audience what you learned from each challenge, how it motivated you and inspired you to get better.
Don’t forget humour
Using humour will engage your audience and make your story more likely to be remembered and shared. Laugh at yourself or a situation you found yourself in, never at someone else. But do run it by a few friends or colleagues first, just to make sure it is actually funny as well as appropriate.
And finally … Hold something back
As well as the tips above about being honest and open, you shouldn’t reveal everything all at once. Keep people interested and wanting to come back for more by finishing on a cliff-hanger. Make sure all your content can stand alone but getting your audience to think you have something more that they need to hear will keep them hooked.
And on that note, I invite you to join us at our free breakfast seminar “Powerful Persuasion – The Art of Storytelling” on Tuesday 20th March at CitizenM Hotel, Tower Bridge, where the Change-Gear team will share with you their secrets on how to finesse this age-old skill.
To book your ticket please follow this link: ART OF STORYTELLING BREAKFAST SEMINAR
We look forward to seeing you there.