TELL STORIES

“Those who tell the stories rule the world.”

Hopi American Indian proverb

Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.

Dr. Howard Gardner, PhD / Professor, Harvard University. 

Even before humans could write, we were telling stories — orally, or with pictures: cave drawings found in France dating back 30,000 years are believed to be intended to tell visual stories, and may have been associated with oral storytelling. Stories help us make sense of our world, and give our lives meaning.

The first written works of human civilization, in the 8th and 7th Centuries B.C. (for example, Homer’s Iliad  & Odyssey) originated as oral stories. Such epics were passed down among  generations of “bards,” or poet-performers: the public speakers of antiquity.

All cultures use storytelling to teach lessons and reveal eternal truths. One of the most effective ways to speak your “truth” to any audience is by telling stories that captivate their attention, and convey meaningful messages that bring value.

How & Why Storytelling Works

About 20 years ago, the lab of Professor Paul Zak discovered that the neurotransmitter oxytocin sends a message that “it’s safe to approach others.” This is associated with empathy, the ability to sense others’ emotions. Prof. Zak has found that effective storytelling produces oxytocin, engaging the structures and systems of the brain that make us feel more “connected” to each other.   

MRI scans even demonstrate how storytelling “synchronizes” the brain wave patterns of the speaker and the listener, in a process called “neural coupling.”

Storytelling Basics

Structure

Any story has three parts:

Beginning: get off to a good start! Engage your audience with a question. Surprise them with an intriguing statement. Involve them by asking them to imagine a scenario. “Set the stage” for what’s to come.

Middle: the “meat & potatoes” of your story. (See Elements for more details on what to include.)

End: FINISH STRONG! It could be a “fairy tale happy ending,” the “punch line” of a good joke, “the moral of the story,” or whatever else sums-up the IMPACT you want to achieve.

Elements

Characters: Who are the “players” in your story? Is it just you, or are others involved? Most importantly: can your audience relate: can they “see themselves” in the characters of your story?

Roles: What roles the characters play? Who is the protagonist? The hero? What purpose do the “supporting actors” play? Be careful about “being the hero of your own story.” You don’t want to seem arrogant or self-absorbed. Remember: any story should always be for the benefit of your audience — not just to express yourself, or draw attention to your accomplshments And never “use the audience for your own therapy.”

Driver: What’s the force that propels the story forward? There has to be some sort of energy to “move things along.” Here are some ideas.

  • Conflict / tension
  • Love / emotion
  • Danger / risk
  • Struggle / challenges
  • Learning / enlightenment
  • Motivation / inspiration

 

Questions for you
  • So what?

What’s your point? What’s your “why” for telling this story? Be clear and intentional about your purpose, and “begin with the end in mind.”

  • Who cares?

Will this particular story be of interest to this specific audience?

  • What difference does that make?

How will hearing your story make a difference in the lives of the members of your audience?

    IMPACT

    Always be mindful of your intended IMPACT: the transformation you’re hoping to achieve. What cognitive, emotional, and / or behavioral change(s) do you hope to achieve? Put simply: how will your audience think, feel, or act differently after hearing your story?

    In the DynamiCoach Program, we’ll:

    • Review options from among all the stories you potentially could tell
    • Tighten and punch-up your stories for maximize IMPACT
    • Review and practice delivery techniques to “bring your story to life” in front of an audience