Storytelling is part of our everyday lives – from talking about the highlights of your favorite team’s victories to sharing stories from your last trip with your friends. Stories uncover the importance of narrative and are not only used in our private lives but are also useful inside organizations, motivating people by the organization’s transcendent purpose – how the organization improves lives rather than how it sells goods is essential.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to listen to Matthew Luhn speak about the art of storytelling. Matthew has more than 25 years of experience in storytelling and creating characters in and outside of Hollywood. He has worked on movies such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Cars or Ratatouille.
For Matthew stories are meaningful because they are memorable, impactful and personal:
Of all the information and images which we see every day, we remember only 5% after 10 minutes. However, if memories are wrapped around an event or experience, 65% of them will be remembered, which leads to stories being 22 times more memorable than facts themselves (spoiler alert: This means that you will probably forget these numbers as well).
Eight seconds is the average attention span, so in order to tell a great story, you need to hook people early.
To create an impactful story, talk about the unusual, unexpected or something that creates a conflict right at the beginning. If you ask, “what if”, you can get someone’s attention, for example the hook for the movie Ratatouille:
A great story is created by a juxtaposition of emotions. As we go on a rollercoaster ride with the character, different chemicals are released in our brain…dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins all come bubbling up to make us laugh or cry along with the protagonist.
We all know these feelings of tension and release from when our favorite athlete’s race, as they come from behind and triumph in the end. These are the competitions we never forget.
Impact is also created through a character that your audience connects to. Lead your audience through a change in your character’s life and involve them in a personal transformation story. Then your audience will care.
The word audience came up quite a lot. Matthew also talked about the importance of connecting with the right audience – what do they love, what is important to them? The narrative of your story should resonate with the demographic you would like to reach, this can be achieved through data collection. However, if your aim is to connect with a larger group of people, universal themes, such as the desire for belonging, can be used to share commonality.
Apply universal themes in #storytelling to reach a wide audience. Some universal themes-based on fears&desires- include: love, belonging, safety & freedom. In Finding Nemo, the main character, Marlin, desires “safety” for his Son, Nemo, while struggling not to be overprotective.
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When a person shares a memorable or impactful story, the connection starts. Sharing anecdotes which are authentic and based on your own life will impact your audience. We all remember stories from our friends or teammates which we will probably never forget, for example how they felt when they ran their first marathon or stories about their skiing trips.
Being authentic and creating a story which comes from your heart is key to telling an inspiring story.
Finally, our everyday life consists of a beginning, middle and end such as mornings, days and nights or watching a football game: watching the pre-match banter, the actual game itself and the post-match analysis afterwards. Stories have been told for thousands of years in the same way: setup, build, payoff. Setting the scene and explaining the problem, then describing a solution for this problem and in the end, showing the success in the pay-off. Finally, if successful, your story will make your audience feel something.