By Susan Croft

From my experience speaking in front of hundreds of audiences, I have learned that stories are memorable because of the images and emotions contained in them.  The lesson of the story sticks because it’s embedded in an image.  The image isn’t a still picture it’s a motion picture – a movie. When you tell a story you make an emotional connection.  When you do that, you and your story are memorable.

In his book Brain Rules, molecular biologist John Medina explains an interesting phenomenon relating to stories:  “When the brain detects an emotionally charged event, the amygdala releases dopamine into the system.  Because dopamine greatly aids memory and information processing, you could say it creates a Post-it note that reads, ‘Remember this.’”

Most people who have ever taught a class, given a speech, run a business meeting or tried to sell a product or service will tell you that stories are more memorable than facts and data.  In other words, facts tell, stories sell.

A good and well-presented story is successful in reaching its objective and remembered long after over others. Reaching its listeners, holding the interest and crossing all age barriers is the impact of an effective storytelling. Knowing and applying the art of storytelling will not only strengthen your stories, but also develop the desired interest in the audience.

The first step to develop the art of Storytelling is to find good stories. You will come across many kinds of stories, but I suggest starting with simple tales with simple elements, particularly related to your own life experiences. The best source to find stories could be the libraries, where you can browse for all kind of stories whether fairy tales, scriptures, folk tales, myths, legends, and hero tales from many countries and cultures.

But how to know if the story you have chosen is a good one? Here are a few pointers for the right storytelling art. A good story has single theme which is well defined with a good plot. With a dramatic appeal, it is faithful to source. It should bear good characterization and be appropriate for the listeners.

Adapting to the audiences is very important for effective storytelling, for the audience has a very important role to play. A good storytelling involves deep interaction between teller and hearer. But with the attention spans getting shorter and more demanding, Storytelling has become more difficult. People are not good at visualizing things and imagine independently. So your storytelling skills should be strong and immaculate to lock the attention of the audience completely.

The true Storytelling art aims at keeping the storyline brief and simple (between 2 – 5 minutes) and taking the story as close as you can to your audience. Stimulate their senses so that they are able to use their imagination to feel, smell, touch and listen, visualizing vivid pictures.  It is the contact between the storyteller and story listeners that make a story come to life.

Stories have existed since long before recorded history, but the desire to hear stories hasn’t changed, nor has the longing to tell stories. Today, though, there are more stories than ever. So the challenge is standing out from this clutter. Just as important to standing out is getting remembered in this ultra-connected, interruptive world.

Nike is one company that embraces the power of the story. In 1970, Nike designated their executives “Corporate Storytellers” as part of their corporate culture. The stories the company leaders told ranged from recounting the company history — “the Nike story” — to many tales of people simply getting things accomplished. By helping all their employees understand the company’s past, the stories help shape the company’s future. Imagine hearing the story of how Nike founder Bill Bowerman went to his workshop one day after a brainstorm session and poured shoe rubber into the family waffle iron. That was the birth of the famous Nike waffle sole. The telling of stories like this reflects “the spirit of innovation” at the shoe company, while connecting today’s work to Nike’s heritage and roots.

Whether it’s sharing a mission, selling shoes, teaching or inspiring a commitment to performance, storytelling is a powerful tool that can mean the difference between extraordinary status and being just another brand. More businesses are realizing what Nike has recognized: the power of storytelling. Business communication doesn’t just have to be bullet points, simple statements, or rhetorical rants. A dose of the human element, emotions, and branded thinking can result in a memorable message. Stories build messages that people care about. Stories help people bond to messages. People remember what they care about and bond with. When you engage listeners in a powerful, entertaining, and informative story, they remember it, and many times they ask for more.


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