Great teachers are great storytellers
When I think back to the great teachers I have had in my life, they were all great storytellers. For instance, I recall how my prep school history teacher would relate the situation as if he were there with the historical characters. I also like to think back to my affable history teacher at high school (John Sebastian Brinsley Peake, Esq) who had all his students re-enact in an open field the history of the first British Square being broken in the Boer War — an event I remember vividly still to this day. There we acted out the story physically. Most of the time, however, students do not have the chance to do a kinetic re-enactment. For most of us, sitting and listening to a speaker or teacher, we must content ourselves with a mental story. Most speakers are too focused on the content of their message and do not manage to convert the information into digestible bytes, much less into a story tale. Yet, we know that stories, well told, move us. Not just on emotional level, they can also move us to act.
The shape of your story and more…
When you listen to the inspiring speech by Nancy Duarte, made at TEDx East at the end of last year, you clearly see that structure or shape is important in the story. But, to be a great story teller requires a cocktail of ingredients for success. As Nancy Duarte recasts in Jobs and King’s speeches, there is an ability to get the audience to project themselves, to lead them down a garden path [sic] and to follow the “dream.”
While there has been much written about what makes for a great story, in this post, I wanted to crystallize what makes, for me, a great storyteller.
Storytelling with empathy
A great storyteller must have great empathy. You can put yourself in the shoes of the characters on the one hand, and also to connect with and feel your audience, to make sure to adjust and adapt to the surroundings.
Storytelling as theatre
Beyond the spoken word, there is the context. Some platforms or environments lend themselves better to storytelling (think: round the fireplace).
Storytelling is what is not said
Whether it is the art of silence or the gaps between words, some things are better left unsaid. The audience’s mind magically fills in.
Storytelling with emotion
To “fall” for a story, you need to believe the speaker. A speaker imbued with a legitimate passion and emotion inevitably captures attention and moves spirits.
The role of the audience
No matter how good the storyteller, the audience needs to be open. The audience’s ability to soak up, interact, and applause absolutely participates in the experience of a great story.
The message for brand marketers
I began this post talking about great teachers. The link for brand marketing? On a more rational level, brands would benefit from learning to engage their audience for better attention-getting and information-retention. Content-based marketing requires a good dose of pedagogical skills. But, it is the emotional connection that will carry the day, both with the employees and the clients.
To the extent that a brand marketing manager might want to learn to navigate the digital space, create value-added content delivered with authentic and credible storytelling, management needs to create a story needs to be congruent with the brand. Then they need to identify people in the organization capable of crafting and carrying the message. Finally, the audience (i.e. target client) must be willing to [listen and] participate. There are some recipes for storytelling, but as soon as the mechanisms are too blatant or contrived, the story will fall flat.