“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
― Albert Einstein
As children, we are raised to appreciate a good story. Our childhood bedtime memories are of fairy dust, cats in hats and pigs in red striped tights. Those stories engaged us, made us laugh and taught us lessons. Yet somewhere along the way, we got too old for stories, too important, too busy. Somewhere along the way, we forgot the impact that a good story can have on our lives.
Well, some of us did. It seems that in Silicon Valley, everyone is finding their inner child. “Storytelling” is the new “pivot,” a word that everyone is using, a word that somehow everyone is an expert in.
In the last few years we’ve called out the pivot for what it truly is – a change in direction, usually an “oopsie” or a do-over. Pivot sounds a lot nicer, though. A lot more planned. More refined.
I have plenty to say about the pivot, but I can’t mock storytelling in the same way. On the contrary, it finally feels like there is a buzzword that I can get behind. It’s not just that I love a good fairy tale, it’s that I’ve long wondered why you lose the ability to tell a good story as soon as you become a grownup (and your listening audience is over the age of five).
Stories are ingrained in human existence. No one truly knows when the first stories were told, but they were a way for information to travel long distances. Good storytellers were good listeners – they had an attention to detail that captured struggle and triumph and helped the story to resonate with everyone they told it to. They engaged their audiences and they were well respected for their skill.
That went on for centuries.
Then, along came PowerPoint. PowerPoint killed the storyteller.
B2B marketers took to PowerPoint like flies to, well, I’ll say honey. At some point, the arrow shaped bullet became the status quo in communication. We all agonized over font size as if it held the key to our audience’s reception. Pie charts were where it’s at in terms of conveying impact. And, we all sat and nodded (off) in darkened rooms with large and noisy projectors.
Case in point: have you ever seen the Gettysburg address in PowerPoint? It’s powerful material that loses a lot in its translation to that format.
The reality is that humans crave connection. People buy from people, particularly people that they trust. And, they need to understand why they trust you. What makes you different. Why your product matters. With PowerPoint (and in most meetings) we analyze experiences, we explain them, but we don’t tell people about those experiences in a way that is personalized. We are presenting rather than communicating.
There is a difference between presenting and being present.
The personal connection is why I can get behind storytelling. Studies show that “character-driven stories with emotional content result in a better understanding of the key points a speaker wishes to make and enable better recall of these points weeks later.” When’s the last time you gave a presentation (that wasn’t a TED talk) that people still talked about weeks later?
So, if you’re wondering whether “storytelling” is just the latest consulting buzzword, have a think back. You likely remember the stories your parents told you, or the stories that your grandparents told them. Think about what made those stories memorable.
They were unusual, but relevant to you. They were timely. You felt that they could be true. And, most importantly, they were human, you identified with the plot. Why? You knew you didn’t want a nose that grew extraordinarily long. You could feel the pea wedged between your mattresses.
The benefits that most of our clients bring to their customers deserve their own stories. They are experiences. Really cool experiences that are different than what anyone else can provide. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with security appliances trusted by world governments. With hearing aids that allow mothers to hear the sound of their children’s laughter. With software that teaches you to code. With platforms that helped e-commerce come to life as we know it.
What has differentiated these clients from others in their industries is their ability to make a connection – to take a concept and break out of the bullet points to express why it matters and what impact it can have.
Long live storytelling. Human connection trumps PowerPoint every time.
Equally important as storytelling is storyshowing, especially on social channels. Find out more.