The Most Potent Communication Tool in the World: STORY

This week I had the great good fortune to be interviewed (you can download it here) by renowned communications consultant Andy Goodman, a man who took his love and deep understanding of story and put it to the best use possible -- helping good causes and nonprofits translate their message into the world’s most potent communication tool: story. It’s amazing how easy it is to lose sight of the irresistible power of story, considering that our brain is literally wired for story – we think in story, it’s how we make sense of the world.

And yet, so often when we want to communicate something we feel is serious we shun story. Instead, our first impulse is to marshal all facts and explain it in great graph-strewn, statistic-studded, pie-chart detail so that other people really, really understand it.

Unfortunately, unless you have a captive audience whose very life depends on it, not only won’t they understand your presentation, chances are they’ll sleep right through it.

The simple truth is that facts that don’t engage us emotionally, don’t penetrate. Especially these days, when we’re bombarded with information 24/7 from all sides. The last thing we want is more information to sift through. What we’re innately hungry for is something that helps us interpret how that information will affect us. That’s exactly what a story does. The world presents  us with facts. Story gives us a way to interpret them.

That’s why the key to getting people engaged isn’t to tell them what’s vitally important (regardless of how right you are), the key is to show them by allowing them to experience it through the world’s first virtual reality -- story. Make no mistake, I’m not just talking about novels, movies or plays. The principles of story -- of engaging an audience -- apply to every modern human endeavor. This is something that advertisers, politicians and televangelists know very, very well. Isn’t it time we took stock of it, and gave them some of their own . . . magic.

Who knows, maybe we can change the world for the better. One story at a time.

What do you think?  What motivates you more, hearing the facts laid out in a businesslike fashion, or experiencing them via a compelling story that shows them in action?

I know, it’s kind of rhetorical, isn’t it? The key takeaway is this: story isn’t just for entertainment. It’s how we survive. And, to go one step further . . . all story is emotion based. Think about it. Motivation is, by definition, a feeling. Not a “rational” decision.

Interesting, isn’t it?