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What Is Humanity Without A Good Story?

Stories that matter build an idea, inspire action, and has a clear outcome to learn from.

Photo by Reuben Juarez on Unsplash

“Once upon a time, there was a story…”

This is a common story-starting phase that is used in fairy tales to narrate past events. Stories have the power to engage people in a way that makes it easier to remember what has been told and helps to convey complex ideas, data, and statistics.

When you are presented with an engaging story, something interesting is happening inside your brain. You start to visualize the story. You begin to smell, feel a sensation, and a range of emotions — even movements. This is part of your brain responding to impactful stories.

(Doody, 2013)

Storytelling has for centuries been a tool for people to narrate a message to other people. It would take in the form of epic poems, chants, songs, etc. In today’s world, there are more options to tell a story through images, sound, and videos to capture people’s attention.

Why are we so engaged and drawn to stories?

I believe there are three reasons for that:

1 — Through stories, we gain empathy with the narration. Stories give us the opportunity, a gateway to what the narrator thinks and feels. The more empathetic we become, the more oxytocin is being released in our brains.

2 — As I mentioned before, stories help us to share information and educate in a more memorable way. “Stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone.”, says behavioral scientist Jennifer Aaker.

3 — Stories help us to feel that we are in control. It helps us to find order in chaos and meaning in randomness.

What makes up a great story?

Speaker and storyteller Karen Eber shares in her Ted Talk what a great story contains:

1 — CONTEXT: What is the context? What is the environment? Who is involved?

2 — CONFLICT: What is the conflict? Where is the moment where everything changes?

3 — OUTCOME: What is the result? Where is it different? What can we learn from it?

“Data doesn’t change behavior, emotions do.”

— Karen Eber.

According to Karen Eber, a good story has three characteristics:

1CREATE AND RELEASE TENSION: a great story creates tension by making you wonder — where does the narrator go with this? What’s going to happen next? Tension is released by sharing something unexpected.

2 — BUILD ON AN IDEA: a great story makes you see things you can no longer be blind to — stories create change.

3 — COMMUNICATES VALUE: a great story will demonstrate what you value, what matters to you, and what you encourage — or what you don’t value, what doesn't matter to you, and what you discourage.

“People can’t function without a story. Humans are incapable of properly sorting every fact presented to them. Instead, consumers make up a theory about what’s going on and then work hard to refine that theory” — Seth Godin

How do you tell a great story?

1— HAVE THE AUDIENCE IN MIND: When you want to tell a story to an audience, it’s important to sit down and think about what you want them to know, think, feel and do differently. Karen Eber says: “Think of where they are now — and what they need to hear to meet them at that place and expand their thinking.”

2 — HAVE A LOGLINE: When creating a story or a presentation, start defining your logline that comes in the form of a summary or question. It helps you to structure your theme for the story, and you become purposeful in how you want your audience to experience and what they should learn from it.

3 — OUTLINE YOUR POINTS: After you have defined your logline for your story, and the audience you want to engage. It’s time to outline your points by answering the questions: “what’s the context?”, “what’s the conflict?’, and “what’s the outcome.” for your story. Always ask yourself in each question if this helps move the idea forward or causes confusion.

4 — MAKE THE STORY: After having done all the prep work, it’s time to build the story you want people to be engaged and inspired to take action. That can be done through any communication tools — whether that’s through Keynote or PowerPoint.

Conclusion

The field of storytelling is beautiful, yet scary. Storytelling is great to convey something in a different way. It takes practice to master it. I’m still learning about it.

Can anyone become a storyteller? Yes, I would say. It’s a skill that can be learned like any other skill.

Storytelling like strategy needs a structure. Without a structure, we will be all over the place, and it will become much harder to get people to understand what we are doing or saying.

Originally published at https://hujale.dk on February 3, 2022.

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