All of us have that certain family member or friend who has the knack for telling a great story. No matter how many times we may have heard a particular tale or no matter that we know every punch line and exactly how the story ends, the telling and retelling still manages to grab our total attention. But the question to be considered might be – is it the story or the storyteller that makes us all ears?
Storytelling has been at the core of the transmission of knowledge and news for centuries. The First Nations People of Canada have used oral tradition from the earliest days to pass on their stories and history to the next generation. Wandering minstrels throughout the ages have travelled from town to town telling the locals about happenings near and far. And families often keep treasured traditions alive through beloved stories.
Good storytelling truly is an art which requires a sense of timing, a flair for dramatics and an appropriate display of emotion to be effective. A gifted storyteller knows how to engage his or her listeners through a command of language, suitable inflection of the voice, and vivid, colourful imagery which brings the tale to life. Without dazzling special effects and expensive props, a great narrator can hold an audience spellbound. What every good storyteller quickly comes to realize is that it’s not so much what is said, but how it is said that matters most.
Yet in our contemporary, technological age, storytelling is becoming somewhat of a lost art as fewer and fewer people seem to possess the skill for relating a captivating narrative. This is unfortunate since stories can illustrate a point much better than facts or text. Spin a compelling tale and people will be drawn to what you have to say and, more importantly, they are more likely to remember the content imparted.
Maybe that’s why corporations and companies have begun to realize the value of engaging customers in a story, and are encouraging their employees, particularly those in marketing, to learn the means of telling good stories. In fact, many in the business world are claiming that in the next 5 years this will be the most valuable asset when it comes to sales. That is one reason for sending their employees to workshops to learn this valuable skill.
Consider for a moment some of the most successful and memorable TV ads and it quickly becomes apparent that most use stories to help consumers connect to their brand. The consumer buys into the story more than the product, but interestingly enough, this appears to translate into sales.
Effective leaders often engage their followers by weaving compelling and powerful stories. Consider successful speakers who use their own stories of overcoming adversity to inspire others to act. There is a Native American proverb that tells us that those who tell stories will rule the world. But Shane Snow, an author who writes about storytelling, warns us, “Make sure the good guys are the ones telling the best stories.”
Whether we use stories to sell goods, teach history, preserve traditions or to entertain, there is no doubt that storytelling remains one of the most valuable tools for effective communication.
We all have a story waiting to be told. Telling it well means it will be remembered and retold by those who matter most.