Tell A Story (please!)

A short story of, well, telling a story.

Chris Stakutis   978 764 3488     August 2014   CTO www.concordsoftwareandexecutiveconsulting.com

[Partial credit given to Leo Widrich http://lifehacker.com/5965703/the-science-of-storytelling-why-telling-a-story-is-the-most-powerful-way-to -activate-our-brains although based on other similar life experienences, observations, and the passions of my life.]

This story is inspired by a broadcast-news movie of a few years ago and a topic dear to my heart.  In the movie, a young new female field reporter is apparently doing a wonderful job detailing the news.  Her attractive male boss is not impressed. “Why?” she asks.  He responds: Tell me a story. 

For those of you like me, in business for many years, running meetings, and giving presentations you start to think you are good at such.  In fact, you’re a star with Powerpoint and succinctly get all the facts out.  Furthermore, given your engineering and science background, you are clear to always present relevant details and furthermore in chronological order.

All good, right?  No.  Not if you are not telling a story.

Widrich’s article is perhaps the best explanation I’ve seen to date (and thus worth reading). My point here is to paraphrase for even faster consumption.  This is singularly and truly a critical life and business skill.  Let’s understand what it even means.

According to Buffet co-founder Widrich, a good story can make or break a presentation.  When Widrich started marketing their products through stories instead of bullet points, sales sky rocketed.  Widrich exclaims that storytelling is actually a science that is uniquely powerful. But why?

The brain is very complicated and has many specialized areas for different activity (beyond the scope needed here).  The short answer: When you are told a story (vs just bullets or facts), all processing parts of your brain get triggered, as if you are living the story.  The impact is larger, longer lasting, and far more effective.  Let’s go back to telling the news just as an example.

A traditional and typical non-story example might be something like this: We are outside 415 Dorchester Street where a 45 year old woman was found dead in the sidewalk shortly after midnight.  Facts.  Accurate even.

Contrast that to this sort of presentation: It’s shortly after midnight here at 415 Dorchester avenue and the evening air has turned harshly crisp.  Elana was found face-down in a stream of her own blood.  The young mother was a mere 45 years old and many neighbors said she had a voice like sweet ice cream at Sunday services.

Which presentation gave you more pause, more thought, and more meaning?

There is a reason for this madness but the very short story is: It is how we were designed to function, learn, and exist.  Similarly to how none of us actually control our heart or metabolic functions, we also have slight control over how we learn and remember -- it’s just nature.  

I wont bore you with any more details and the above link is worth a quick read (it is not much longer though a tad more complex).  Just remember: If you’re not telling a story, what are you telling?

[Artwork/imagery credit to Tina Mailhot-Roberge of the same link]

© 2014 Chris Stakutis is an independent consultant, author, and software creator available to help your business.