When it comes to communication, stories have a remarkable ability to engage audiences.We get hooked on stories at an early age and this continues throughout our lives in books, film TV and stage. In fact, stories surround our everyday conversations, and great stories can take audiences on an amazing roller coaster ride of emotions. In a presentation, stories are more memorable than facts and figures, so they are a fantastic tool to get your message across and be more memorable.
Last year I was asked to interview some speakers and moderate a discussion panel at the Digital Information Summit in Paris. One of the keynote speakers was Michael Woodford who is a superb storyteller. You may remember hearing about Michael as the CEO turned whistleblower at the giant Japanese firm Olympus. After an experience that has been likened to a John Grisham thriller, Michael wrote the best seller “Exposure”. In a gripping true story, he shows how he rose through the ranks of Olympus to become the first non-Japanese person to be appointed as the company's CEO, making Olympus one of the few Japanese companies to be headed by a foreign businessman. Within weeks he uncovered a $1.6bn fraud which led to the very top of the organisation. The book then details an incredible series events which left Michael risking everything to expose the massive fraud and those responsible. It’s a fantastic read and shows how powerful story telling can be; the book’s review in the Mail on Sunday, sums up what good story telling should be “Remarkable, vivid and straight from the heart”
In Paris, you could hear a pin drop as Michael gave a spell bounding account of his experiences. All of us were captivated by the way he brought his story to the stage. He then did something I’ve never seen before. He brought up two people from the audience, (who he hadn’t prepped), and involved them in re-enacting the meeting Michael had with the Chairman and Chief Finance officer of Olympus. It was a brilliant touch and made the story even more powerful
More recently I went to see the comedy writer, journalist, radio DJ and screenwriter Danny Baker perform his “Good Time Charlie’s Back”tour. It’s the second of a series of shows he’s written chronicling his life. He brought remarkable energy, humour, passion and humility to the stage, and was absolutely dazzling. With the help of family album photographs, brilliant writing and stunning detail he took us on an entertaining and heartfelt journey. I can’t wait for him to return with the next instalment. How wonderful to be able to leave your audiences feeling that way – that’s the true art of storytelling.
Just as I started writing this post, a newsletter popped in to my inbox from a good friend of mine and fellow speaker Eamon O’Brien. He does a great weekly podcast called “The Corporate Storyteller’s Club” and in his latest episode he talks with another friend of mine, business psychologist, neuroscientist, author and speakerDr. Lynda Shaw. They talk in depth about what really happens when audiences experience stories and how this affects attention, engagement and memories.
Click on this link to hear it: Stimulate Brains with Great Stories. We know they work, so it’s really fascinating to understand the science behind the value of telling stories.
We might not be Michael Woodford or Danny Baker, but our stories are ours and they are more powerful than we think. They are such an effective tool in communication and we should all probably use them a lot more than we do.