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The Power Of Storytelling: Inspiring And Connecting With Your Audience

Oleh 04 Juni 2024 Whitepapers

My first experience with storytelling was at bedtime as a child. My father would make up tales to help me go to sleep, in turn enabling him to finally get to sleep. I don’t remember all the details of each story he told, but I remember how it made me feel and that at the center of each story was a precocious little girl that was always getting in trouble. However, she always learned a meaningful lesson and each story ended with her becoming a better human. Not only did his stories cause me to drift off to dreamland, but they also shaped and influenced choices I made while I was awake and navigating the world.

Storytelling has been a part of the human experience since the dawn of time. We use stories to connect with others, experience emotions and to feel understood. In business, storytelling plays a critical role in driving change, building trust and credibility. It also can help to foster an inclusive and collaborative work environment. According to a study by Prezi, a web-based presentation tool provider, 55% of people say that a great story captures their focus and keeps them engaged.

First, you need a story to tell. In business, these stories need to be compelling and relevant to the priorities and concerns of your audience. You also need the ability to tell a story that evokes emotion and inspires commitment from others. Last but not least, you have to have more than one story. You need to know how many and what kind of stories would generate momentum and demonstrate progress as you drive change and bring people along with you on the journey.

So how do you ensure your stories hit the mark?

Understand how stories impact the brain. 

According to the NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI), a global research and training center that uses neuroscience to improve leadership development, stories change the way we perceive and recall information from others. They explain that when we see or hear a story, the neurons in our brain fire in the same patterns as the speaker’s, a process known as “neural coupling.” You also hear it referred to as “mirroring.” According to research by Greg J. StephensLauren J. Silbert, and Uri Hasson, these processes occur across many different areas of the brain. Multiple areas of the brain are engaged during story creation and processing. These networks are strengthened by feelings of anticipation of the story’s resolution, reinforced by production of dopamine, making it easier to remember something with greater accuracy.

Use stories to connect with others. 

cave painting found on an Indonesian island appears to be the earliest known record of storytelling through pictures. A team of Indonesian and Australian researchers say the work dates back nearly 44,000 years. That is several thousand years older than European examples of cave art that appear to tell a story. This shows that storytelling is not a new way of engaging. In fact, it’s embedded in the way we as humans make sense of the world.

Use stories to help audiences find meaning in data. 

Often, we hide behind facts and data. It’s easier to point to the black and white aspect of something than to take the risk of sharing our viewpoints or insights. Story elevates data by helping to build meaning and purpose to what you’re presenting. When you share a story about how the data was collected or evolved over time, you bring your audience on a journey with you. They get to experience the expectations, discoveries and conclusions you made while finding this data. This not only helps them attach to the content but also enables them to determine what really matters and what is extraneous.

Craft your stories to be easy to follow and connect with your audience. 

You may have a million stories in your arsenal. However, the tale you tell to entertain your friends on a Friday night are not necessarily the best stories for capturing the imagination of a group of executives in a pitch meeting. Your stories have to be relevant and purposeful.

Identify a story that can help convey why the information you’re sharing is important to your audience. To do that, you have to spend time getting to know what matters to them. You may not have the luxury of knowing them personally beforehand. But you can assess what their roles are responsible for and possibly concerned about.

Tell a concise story. 

Sometimes we can revel in our own stories. We get to return to something that we’ve already emotionally experienced. We can make the mistake of assuming that every detail is necessary and as interesting to our audience as it is to us. It is most likely not. You want to capture their imagination, but you don’t want to abuse the attention they are generously giving you. Getting them from the beginning, through the middle and to the end should have a sense of momentum and pace to it.

Be vulnerable and authentic. 

When we think of storytelling, we often jump to a conclusion that it involves more fiction than fact. But in business, it can go a lot further if we stick to reality. To do this, we have to go beyond a telling of historical events. To make facts carry emotional weight and meaning, we have to take a risk. We have to share about ourselves, revealing a deeper layer than our professional façade often portrays.

This can feel daunting in a world where others will judge us and possibly dismiss us if they don’t like who we show up as in the stories we tell. Thus the reason so many avoid dynamic storytelling at work, even though all signs point to it being a primary way that humans find meaning, develop attachments and retain information. It will require a level of bravery to share stories that are authentic and meaningful.

Demonstrate the conflict. 

A great outcome of storytelling is more than simply entertaining your audience. Sharing a journey that you’ve gone on in connection with the content your presenting provides a means in which the audience can process their own emotional journey. Including a conflict that you worked through may help them process in real-time their own resistance, objections or mental roadblocks to your proposal.

Embedding an unfolding conflict helps the audience stay engaged as they anticipate and try to mentally solve what the story’s resolution will be. This all helps support your ability to influence decision-making and change.


A version of this article appeared on forbes.com, posted on May 24, 2024

EXPERD, Human Resources Consultant, Jakarta – Indonesia

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