Mastering the Art of Storytelling
Storytelling is an art… not a method, process or a technique, an art. Because like art, it requires vision, creativity and practice.
People are often unclear about the literary definition of the term "Storytelling" and even less clear about its practice.
But if you are to understand the term, know this: storytelling means describing an experience or an event in a “once-upon-a-time” style, such that it stirs emotion in the listener and grabs his attention, all the while having interesting characters and an element of surprise. And if anyone can do it, its you!
We humans are storytellers by nature, starting as early as we learn to talk.
You know how kids love to listen to stories and tell their own; something exciting they did or something they saw, aired by their imagination, they love to describe their experiences.
Adults are the same, its just the dynamics of the stories that change as we age. So we are all storytellers and we are all good at it; some intrinsically better than others and rest who can be as good. How? ‘Storytelling is everything’. When you start believing in this sentence, you become a better speaker and things like public speaking or writing becomes a lot easier.
One of the truly remarkable storytellers of this generation is Pixar and there’s no argument about that. What is it that makes the work of this animation studio loved by everyone, the movies going blockbuster and bagging Grammys, Golden Globes and what not! Think of Coco, think of Inside out,
Toy Story, WALL-E and oh our favorite, Piper. What do all of these films have in common? Sure, our first guess always goes to the outstanding animation but dig deeper, what is it that makes us connect with the film. It’s the stories! Incorporating a deep understanding of human psychology and human emotions, Pixar does such effective storytelling so as to move its audience.
And we can all learn a thing or two from Pixar, the number one of which is: a good story is universal. It is about taking an aspect of human condition (birth, death, love, loss, conflict and aspiration) and convey it in a unique way. Second, a good story has structure, purpose and an emotional appeal.
Now the big question is, what differentiates a good story from a great story?
For one, a great story is unexpected and surprising (remember we mentioned the element of surprise in the beginning?) and is something which challenges the perception of reality. As daunting as it may seem, a great story doesn’t need to be elaborate or something so out of this world to be categorized as such.
In fact, a great story is simple and uncomplicated.
As a creator you may feel like you are losing a lot of valuable stuff in simplifying but trust us, it will set you free and will allow your listeners to truly immerse in the narrative.
We had recently done a project for client who delivered a presentation at Ignite Velocity in New York 2018 arranged by O’Reilly. Platforms like Ignite teach us too; a place where you have to deliver kickass “speedy presentations”. This unique format of presentation is an extraordinary way to deliver presentations incorporating great storytelling in the most concise manner. Speakers at Ignite get 15 minutes and a limit of 20 slides to get their message across and if there is one thing we can learn from a practice like this, its that it is 100% possible to deliver a concise yet an effective presentation in this short period of time. And probably that is the reason Jon Westenberg said, “Storytelling is the greatest technology that humans have ever created”.
When it comes to businesses, one should realize that people do not have an interest in your company, the product or the brand.
It’s sad but it’s also the truth. They are skeptical about every message you send through to them and they question your intentions. And this is where stories come in. Stories are more effective than simply stating facts.
Stories help get attention, stories are remembered and stories change perceptions.
A great example of the use of storytelling for improving brand perception is Unilever’s Lifebuoy soap campaign “Help a Child Reach Five” the brand carried out in India. The goal of the campaign was to get people to wash their hands better to reduce the 2 billion deaths that happen every year before a child reaches the age of 5. The most effective element of the campaign was a handful of videos they released featuring real life village families and little boys and girls who survived and lived beyond the age of 5. The videos got millions of views and the campaign was hugely successful. This level of impact from a bar of soap! They used powerful stories, connected them with their brand and it did wonders to their brand enhancement. Goes on to prove the power of stories.
In conclusion, no matter what industry we work in, we can all agree on the fact that our goal is to grab the attention of our audience, make them understand our idea and ultimately, get their support.
With great storytelling, you will find that your message hits home and you are able to convince your audience that your idea is worth adopting more effectively than ever.
And isn’t that what we all want?!