When I was in college, I worked for the New York Times. That’s how I started out a talk that I gave recently to the Women Executives in Business (WEB) organization in Mankato. Until I became a student of storytelling, I didn’t understand the value that my personal stories could have in the business world. But the success of this talk, measured in audience feedback, proved out the concept that good stories power up your communications. Here’s what happened.
They Were Entertained
The story that I relayed had some tension. Granted, it’s not everyone who can say that they worked for a major national newspaper, but the core of my story wasn’t about the paper. It was about an instance where I went out of my comfort zone to do something new. I also used a technique that I picked up from reading Doug Stevenson, about stepping in and out of the story, and used gestures to not just tell, but to show what was happening at the height of the story.
They Opened Up
When you create empathy in another person, they are more open to what you are going to ask them to do next. In this case, it was to listen to the rest of my message. By the time I got to the part where I was talking about the neuroscience of storytelling, the women were right there with me. They were not only open to listening, they engaged with me and we had a spontaneous interaction with each other that brought energy into our experience.
They Have a Tag to Remember Me By
The New York Times story is now a tag that connects my name and face for the audience. When they have an instance when they want to recall my name, they may first think of the story they heard, and use that as a trigger to pull up my face and name.
They Know What I Want Them to Know About Me
The story is about a time when I went out of my comfort zone to have a remarkable experience. We naturally make up narratives in our head about the people we meet, making assumptions and generalizations about what they’re like. By giving the audience this narrative about me, I’m essentially telling them how I want them to think of me and my character.
They Understood and Retained the Information
I didn't give them a test when we were finished, but the neuroscience of storytelling indicates that people understand and retain information better when it's framed with a story. There were several stories that I used throughout the talk to illustrate the concepts, so story wasn't just the catalyst to stir up empathy, I used it to maintain our connection throughout the talk.
The Power of Storytelling
Curious about my NYT story and want to learn about the power of storytelling? I’m talking this 20 minute talk on the road and would love to talk to you about bringing it to your networking or community group. Just send me a note and we’ll see how we can make that happen.