February 2021 – In International Storytelling Week, RPfT’s Senior Associate, Becky Stoddard discusses the role storytelling takes in motivating and connecting human beings.
We are all natural storytellers. We remember our experiences and repeat them to others in the form of stories. From early man sharing his tales during the long nights; to the modern day use of observational comedy; stories appear in every culture on the planet. It is part of what makes us human, of how we portray ourselves as humans and in many ways, we become the stories we create about ourselves. The times we are living through right now, are a case in point: how will this pandemic story be interpreted in the future? Will we be heroes, or villains? Survivors or victims?
The quote, “History is written by the winners” hints at the importance of storytelling. A quick glance back in history tells us that all truly inspirational leaders were first and foremost, storytellers. Think of Martin Luther King and the powerful movement he led. His “I Have a Dream” speech, captured hearts and minds. Another great storyteller, Barack Obama, skilfully engages his audience, stirs their emotions, and usually ends with a rousing call to action. Even Donald Trump is a master storyteller, arguably not quite so eloquent, but capable nonetheless, of creating a narrative that provokes strong feelings amongst his followers and detractors alike.
Storytelling is a powerful tool, that shapes minds, outlooks and even actions. Storytelling in business is also a powerful communications tool. Tell people a list of facts and they may well nod off. Tell them a story with a beginning, middle and an end, with pauses, with tension, with drama, with laughs…. then you will grab their attention.
This week is International Storytelling Week, so we are celebrating the work we do to teach storytelling techniques that help people become more engaged in their communication and to develop their own personal style. If you engage with your audience, then what you have to say will stick better and have far more impact. Stories help capture the emotion of the narrative and because of this, we are more likely to remember a particular message. Indeed, neuroscientific research shows us that we retain more information when it is delivered in a narrative framework.
Whether giving an elevator pitch or speaking at a large conference, using storytelling enables people to motivate, inspire and change behaviours in others. It can build trust, create better connections, and move people to act. When implemented skilfully it is an incredibly powerful tool and a crucial part of leadership at all levels.
Storytelling puts people at the very heart of business.