Telling The Story

There's all kinds of supporting documentation regarding the differences in simply sending a message and telling a story.  In doing the research for a paper I mentioned earlier on this blog, I found that some companies like 3M and Nordstrom used the art of telling a story to deliver their vision instead of simply outlining their goals and objectives.  USA Today ran an article on the use of storytelling in the boardroom back in 2004, and there's a good article on breaking down the whole concept of storytelling. 

I probably don't use storytelling enough, but instead I consciously try to break things down into analogous bites that people can get their heads around a little better.  In either case, getting your message out to your audience, be they firefighters, EMTs or the public, isn't just the effort of writing down some bullet points and hoping they get the idea, it's taking the idea and putting it into a context they can relate to, and giving them information they can use and share with others.

There is a reason why we can re-tell a joke we haven't heard in years and funble sometimes with our phone number.  The joke has context and we can relate to the story somehow, but our phone number, well, is just a number.  But if you have difficulty remembering the number, try breaking it down into a story: the number 278-3324 for example.  For me, the first three digits, 278, are the main drag in my community.  33 is the number on the Rolling Rock bottle and 24 is my father's first fire department ID number.  By putting these together into a little story in our head, we can remember it.  We can do this with other things as well: The five Great Lakes are "HOMES"; Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.

Take your mission statement for example.  Unless it's a short phrase (which it should be anyway), can you remember it verbatim?  Maybe you should convey your message in a short bite and use some storytelling to translate what exactly it is you are trying to demonstrate and the direction you want your organization to move in.

We have an excellent homilist at my church, Deacon Joe.  Instead of getting up there and lecturing, he tells a story, and people can walk out of the Mass and recount that story, maybe not exactly, but they get the overall message.  You can see people leaning forward and focusing intently on what he is saying.  They laugh at the humorous parts and they can be seen nodding in agreement at some of the more salient points.  He does a great job of getting that week's message across to his audience.

The next time you have an important message you want your intended audience to really understand, do a litle experiment; tell a story and see if people can recount what it is you are trying to get across more readily.  Maybe by doing so, you might be able to get people to understand in a way they never experienced before, or at least since their childhood.

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