In today’s video I explore the art of storytelling. Why stories are so powerful in communication. How stories can be used to persuade. How to structure a great story. And how to tell a great story. So here’s this month’s video – The art of storytelling.

(Video script – 12 minutes)

Hi I’m Kim Tasso. Today I’d like to talk to you about the power of stories. And share some ideas on how to create and tell great stories to help you in business. You can see that I have come out of my office today and am sat comfortably in my library – next to the fiction and kids’ books rather than business and psychology sections.

Why is storytelling so important?

  • Well, there’s a famous piece of research that shows stories are 22 times more likely to be remembered than facts and figures
  • Stories are more engaging – they connect with people emotionally. Emotions are a key part of how our memories are created – the stronger the emotion – the stronger the memory
  • If the listener identifies with a character in the story then some amazing things happen in their brain – there is the release of good chemicals like dopamine and the neurons in the brain start to mirror those in the storyteller. Neural coupling. It enables the listener to integrate the story into their ideas and experience
  • Many people find stories are a great way to persuade people or help them change their minds. That’s partly to do with the fact that people put their own interpretations and meanings to stories – they are not simply told what to think or believe. Stories are pull communication – they draw people in. The alternative is push communication – where we tell people. And they are likely to resist.
  • And these days of the digital revolution there is tons of information on everything. But what people crave is knowledge and wisdom – to make sense of all the data
  • And stories are one of the original means of communication. They were how our ancestors – in all cultures – transmitted explanations and values and taught people how to behave

What makes a good story?

Well, there are many aspects to a good story. Here are my top tips:

  1. I guess the starting point is that you need to use empathy to put yourself in the shoes of those listening to the story. Rather than focusing on purely what you want to say. Why should they listen to you? Why would they find your story interesting?
  1. Think about your aims. What outcome do you want to achieve? How do you want people to react or feel after your story? What insight, change or transformation do you want to achieve?
  1. Be authentic – to be the real you and share emotions. Maybe even reveal a vulnerability.
  1. There are two parts in creating a story. The first part is content. WHAT it is about. What happens, to whom and why and the outcome. The language is, of course, important – there is something about using words to engage all the senses – sights, hearing, smells, touch – so the listener can imagine themselves in the same place.
  1. The other part is HOW the story is told. Imagine the difference between someone stood still and reading a story in a monotone voice compared to someone who smiles, who moderates their voice and who uses their facial expressions and arm movements to bring the words to life. (In the video I use a children’s story book to demonstrate delivery)

There’s a wonderful saying by Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. She also said “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”.

  1. It might help to use a template to guide the creation of your story – something like the Hero’s story or the dramatic curve (these are outlined more in an article about storytelling). Disney is brilliant at this. (GENIE LAMP)
  1. Think about Aladdin – Our hero and his character flaw. An unlikely hero – the street urchin Aladdin with all his imperfections.
  2. The quest and enabling circumstances – Aladdin wants to marry Princess Jasmine but the law says she must marry a prince.
  3. The hero’s ally – Remember he has a pet monkey – Abu
  4. Opponent and enabling circumstances – Jafa recruits his “diamond in the rough” to retrieve the magic lamp from the cave
  5. The life changing event – Once he gets the lamp, Aladdin breaks the rule but escapes on a magic carpet. He finds the genie who grants his wishes – to turn him into a Prince so he can marry Princess Jasmine.
  6. Jeopardy – Jafar gets the lamp back. Aladdin loses everything. But Aladdin tricks him into taking the place of the genie in the lamp who is now free.
  7. Resolution – Rules are changed so Aladdin can marry the princess and they live happily ever after

There are lots of possible structures and approaches – some are outlined in storytelling books I have reviewed recently.

  1. And these days you can use all manner of channels to get your story to your audience – through writing, social media, videos, podcasts, cartoons, animations and so on. You need, of course, to match the format of your story to the channel where it is being distributed.

So let me finish by sharing one of my stories… (You’ll have to watch the video to hear this!)

How did you connect with that story? What did it make you think, feel and remember?

And what’s your story?

Thank you for watching and listening…

PS Telling this story reminded me of another powerful use of stories. At that first role in professional services (you’ll have to watch the video!) we used a story metaphor – King Arthur, Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table – to explain how management consultants operated and the benefits they offered. We used a children’s illustrator – Frank Baber – for a brochure and here are some images from that publication.

Video – The art of storytelling

Other articles on stories and storytelling:

Storytelling book reviews: The Story Advantage and The Story Factor ( March 2021

Writing tips for finding news stories, backstories and explainers ( April 2019

selling legal services with storytelling ( September 2017

Persuasive writing tips – five technical questions ( March 2017

Selling insights for fabulous first meetings ( March 2017

Book review “Life after Boris” – a story about succession in a partnership (Mendelssohn) ( June 2013

Book review “Valuable content marketing” by Jefferson and Tanton ( June 2013

Book review – story, community and influence (Jay Oatway) ( July 2012

Single mums vs single dads – A small social media story – Kim Tasso February 2010

Marketing consultancy HubSpot produced a guide on storytelling