The Power of Story

At a recent speech the presenter before me started out with a story, followed by another, and another. All linked to points. Brilliant, and so rare in business presentations today. He warmed up the audience, and I was grateful.

"Story" is the S of our SHARP principles. Story is also the primary tool in making your message stick, as in Chip and Dan Heath's great book "Made To Stick." And in the vernacular of Malcolm Gladwell - story makes ANY idea stick, and if you haven't read his great book get "Blink."

The Top Ten Reasons stories are useful and powerful:

  • They are real
  • They are short
  • They are interesting
  • They are human
  • They give third party credibility
  • They are easy to tell
  • They are memorable
  • They are emotionally connecting
  • They move people
  • They are the principle communication tool since Man began talking

What Others Say

To be a person is to have a story to tell.

-Isak Dinesen

The story is more important to me than the part.

-Catherine Deneuve

Of course it's the same old story. Truth usually is the same old story.

-Margaret Thatcher

A compelling story, even if factually inaccurate, can be more emotionally compelling than a dry recitation of the truth.

- Frank Luntz (Communication Specialist in language – also a political consultant)

Eighty percent of our life is emotion, and only 20 percent is intellect. I am much more interested in how you feel than how you think. I can change how you think, but how you feel is something deeper and stronger, and it's something that's inside you.

- Frank Luntz

From Todd Paulsen, here is some of the power of story, and the reason behind it (see the complete article here):

"THE USE OF STORIES IS A POWERFUL TOOL that aids in material retention, but methodologies of inclusion are rarely discussed. The desire to share emotions and effect the emotional states of others drives us to tell and retell stories. A story is a vector that spreads the information and emotion that is contained within it. No classroom or teacher is needed past the initial storytelling. We have been doing this for years in the form of childrens stories. It has been widely speculated that the story of Hantzel and Gretel (sic) is a cautionary tale used by elders to prevent children from wandering off into the dangers of the European forests alone."

Jesus told stories and parables. He didn’t talk in concepts – he only needed stories, and he riveted peoples attention. Sowing seeds along the path, the rich young ruler, a house built on sand, faith growing like a mustard seed, and dozens more.

Remember, people buy on emotion and justify with fact.

A great resource for getting great at telling stories is Doug Stevenson's Story Theatre - after our "Communicate To Influence" program this is one to take - it pays as a communicator to get serious about storytelling.

Create YOUR communication experience - stories will add mightily.

15 thoughts on “The Power of Story
  1. Thank you for this. I have been recently thinking much about storytelling as a bit of an art form. I also think storytellers are made, not born. There are certain skills to learn in proper storytelling, as you mention.
    I have been working on this both in my presentations as well as with my sixth grade and undergraduate students.
    Thanks for the reminder..
    Chris Craft

  2. Beautifully expressed and shared – thank-you. I use story a lot, and ironically encounter much resistance from some people about the use of story. I’ve often felt the story has significantly more meaning and impact upon the points wanting to be made and shared.

  3. Bert, thanks for this great post and the links you provided. I started reading Annette Simmons’ book “The Story Factor” this spring and I love it. It got me to thinking about how important it is to tell stories in business settings and even in the interview process. I know storytelling is an area that I need to improve. With some further investigation and practice, I know I will get there.

  4. Bert,
    Question for you…where do you find stories to include in your talks? I’m thinking about building a site to consolidate stories in a repository online, organized by concept, and before I get too far I’d love to know if you think this would be useful to presenters. Any advice?

  5. Hi Chris,
    I couldn’t agree more – Storytellers are made not born. I used to be a regular manager, until my mentor introduced me to the power of stories.
    I now have a databank of stories and before any presentation, I make sure I have 2-3 stories ready, to illustrate the most salient points.
    I also ensure I always end with a story, that highlights almost all the points I made. Works well.

  6. Lenny,
    I think it would be useful, and also a lot of work.
    People should always be looking for stories from their life. That is the best source – our lives are amazing if we see them through a story tellers eyes.
    Stories come from experiences – and each of us have at least one if not several experiences a day that are worthy of amplification, drama, insight and meaning.
    And think OPE, or Other People’s Experiences. One should keep one’s ears open to the interesting and meaningful stories, or anecdotes that can be expanded to story, of others.
    Thanks for your comment. Let me know when you have a site up.

  7. Bert,
    Thanks for this post… I love stories… easiest part of any sermon that’s for sure. I am always looking for them… and I love your comment above about “our lives are amazing if we see them through a story teller eyes”. That idea is a good subject for another post from you… develop that one a bit? Love it.

  8. AWESOME!!! Just fwd’ed this 2 all those on our teaching team. Jesus modeled “less is more” perfectly in his storytelling technique. Told it in few words yet 1000s were changed. I pour over his storytelling skills when I’m up 2 teach on our platform.

  9. Great post. I completely agree that stories are one of the best ways to teach. If you can tell a good story, you will have the attention of your audience (which attention is valuable real estate these days!). I’ve read “Made to Stick” and loved it. It has definitely improved the quality and memorability of my messaging by including stories.

  10. I believe it is rather easy to tell a story. A well-developed and presented story will hold the listeners’ interest. Appealling stories with original flavor and vigor will be remembered. But it’s the hardest thing to be a skilful storyteller. It is a beautiful art.

  11. Well according to me Reflection of the Soul is a big story and we should remind ourselves to tell that everyday to all. Whenever wherever we need to be telling the real story and must come with experience as Decker puts it.
    Thanks for this wonderful article.

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