Once Upon a Time - The Power of Storytelling

How do you engage the hearts and minds of your audience? How do you grab attention from the myriad thoughts running through their minds? How do you get them to grasp and then remember the intention of your message? Presenting, facilitating, training, and teaching all offer the same challenge.

Children at a very young age learn to listen, fantasise and relate to lessons within entertaining tales. Ancient philosophers and leaders of religions used parables (stories) to teach and influence. Many years ago, psychotherapists told stories about monsters and dragons in order for their patients to be able to face their fears in a symbolic and safe way. Folk stories, passed down through the times are still told and sung, and convey a definite message that is easy to remember.

Yes, storytelling is a powerful tool to help you touch your audience. Good stories gain attention and help people to understand the link between the lesson and their own lives. They are a way of establishing common ground between you and your audience and motivating them without risking intimidation. People easily relate because they can make the connection with their situation far better than anyone else can. They don’t feel threatened by someone pushing ideas on to them and therefore interpret and learn the message at their own pace, in their own way.

Good trainers and presenters are instinctive storytellers. They realise that a form of entertainment is required - the skill of engaging the audience with relevant and helpful analogies. Without this, a presentation or speech is but a dump of information.

Our senses are very powerful memory triggers. You may hear a song that you last heard twenty years ago and immediately recall the smell of the perfume, the feel of the emotions of being with your dancing partner, the lights of the party, the taste of the food, etc. The sounds of the song trigger memories that recall other senses and details to mind. Stories do that too.

Careful though! Stories without connection or context are worse than no stories at all. The best anecdotes come from your own life experiences. If you relate a tale that doesn't remind you of an experience you’ve had, it's bound to sound hollow and fake. As soon as something touches your life, you have a new story. Don’t worry about having to be too accurate with your stories, they can be improved by a little embroidery, but only use stories you embroider. To touch others, you must be touched!

Use genuine, personal stories that have meaning for you.

  • Link the story to the objective you are trying to achieve. This is important! Know exactly why you are telling it and how it links to that specific audience.
  • Get your emotions and body into the story. Act it out and enjoy yourself.
  • Be vivid. Choose words that paint a picture, describe sounds, and involve feelings and other senses. These emotive details make it real for the listeners.

That reminds me of a time when……………….

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