Posted by: Rael Kalley | July 18, 2015

310. Tell me a story.

Many years ago I attended a seminar in Vancouver.

The topic was on some arcane section of the Income Tax Act.

I, along with a number of my colleagues at the time, reluctantly attended for the simple reason that we were told to do so by our boss.

Something happened that day that taught me a lesson which forever changed my view on how we communicate. That lesson has stuck with me to this day.

The speaker, rather than going through the technicalities of the act and explaining its complexities in dull, boring terms chose instead to weave every salient point of his lecture into a fascinating story about a young, up-and-coming hockey player.

He spent the three hours of his presentation taking us through the lengthy details of this young man’s life while connecting each key pertinent point in his lecture to a benefit derived by the star of his story in using that part of the act to his advantage.

The lesson I learned that day so many years ago was this: well-crafted stories stay in the minds of an audience far longer than detailed explanations of facts. If we truly want to make a memorable point then embedding that point in a story, or metaphor, will substantially improve the likelihood of our points being remembered.

Don Hewitt, the legendary producer of 60 Minutes was renowned for greeting his reporters, upon their return from assignments, with these words “Tell me a story” and it is the story-telling skill of the reporters, writers, producers and editors that has kept the news magazine continuously on the air for almost 50 years.

If you are a reader and have ever found yourself unable to put down a book while identifying with its characters then you have held in your hands a masterpiece constructed by a master storyteller.

I recently had a conversation with ateacher who shared her frustration at the challenges involved in retaining the attention of her teenaged students to whom she was required to teach tough mathematical challenges.

At some point in her career the power of stories was brought to her attention and she spent an entire summer creating and crafting a detailed story of the lives of a fictional five person family which she unfolded to her students over the course of the following school year.

She found crafty ways of presenting the most challenging puzzles of math to her story and to her absolute delight noticed  significantly improved levels of attendance, quality of homework assignments and results delivered in year-end exams over the previous years of teaching math “the old-fashioned way.”

They say a good conversationalist is a good storyteller’s and that good storyteller’s deliver their lines with all same enthusiasm, expressive body language, animated gestures and passionate facial expression of trained actors.

My own experience has led me to believe this to be true for I have often found that whenever I struggle to make a point that if I simply construct a story around what I am trying to say I substantially raise my odds of success.

Storytelling is an art that can breathe life into the dullest of topics and turn interesting topics into fascinating ones.

If you think learning to tell stories will be a difficult and taxing exercise, then think back to some of the great ones you told when you were a child.

And you will be delighted to discover the unfettered creativity of your youth still resides within you.

Which reminds me of a story …

Till we read again.


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