Thursday, 14 February 2013

The power of storytelling

Do you ever wonder why your great ideas sometimes don’t resonate and become adopted while some other seemingly mediocre ideas are embraced? The way they are communicated may have a lot to do with it.

While preparing for an upcoming presentation, I found myself searching for more compelling ways to communicate an idea. I came across the work of Nancy Duarte, a communication expert who is behind some of the world’s most influential business communications.

According to her, ideas are conveyed most effectively through stories. In the above video, she uncovers the “shape of a story” from renowned works of cinema and literature, and then demonstrates how to incorporate stories into your presentation.

Peter Guber, the author of “Tell to win” supports this view saying that stories can act as Trojan Horses. He argues that, when absorbed in a story, people detect fewer inaccuracies and inconsistencies. More importantly, they don’t seem to care about the errors. However, when reading dry and factual content, people seemed more critical than when reading a story.

But why is it that humans seem to be “wired” for stories? Why are they so effective?

As we explored in a previous blog about neuromarketing, people make most of their decisions based on unconscious emotions as opposed to rational logic. Data dumps, dense PowerPoint slides and pure stats do not emotionally connect people with your idea. The best way to do that is with “Once upon a time…”

Neuroscience also shows the brain works by associations producing webs of interrelated concepts. Countless mind mapping tools and techniques are founded in this simple fact. By linking your ideas to commonly known stories, you are leveraging a previously established neurological path in your audience’s memory. They will be able to more easily associate your ideas with that known path provided by stories. This way your ideas become more meaningful and memorable.

What other insights do you know about stories and presentations?

Adriana Heinzen Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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