Yes, it certainly can!
Despite what we’ve been told about how story is the cure-all for creating engaging communication (presentations, blogs, videos, newsletters, etc.), and despite the fact that story touches us deeply as humans, releases ‘happy hormones’, builds relationships, supports memory, facilitates identification, etc., we’ve all endured endless ‘stories’ that have been utterly boring, time-wasting and complete turn-offs.
What went wrong?
Here’s what recent research findings on our ability to pay attention in The 2018 State of Attention Report tells us. The good news is that, contrary to popular opinion, our attention span is not shrinking. It’s evolving. We have NOT dropped below the attention span of a goldfish (8-9 seconds). We’ve become more selective about where we focus our attention. Simply put, if something is boring, irrelevant, repetitive, re-cycled, we switch off almost immediately. If something arouses our curiosity, engages us, we cant’t get enough of it (think binging for hours & hours on your favourite TV series!)
Back to that storytelling bandwagon mentioned above.
Story in itself does not make engaging content. According to the same research findings, the winners on getting our attention and holding it are: compelling stories combined with stimulating visuals! Note the word COMPELLING stories here!
Let’s start with how to tell a COMPELLING story?
The first lesson is: avoid story-kill!
- Your story is too long. For example, if you include stories in your 20/30-minute-presentation, then make sure that each story is about 2-3 minutes long – and don’t overuse story either.
- You waste too much of your audience’s time on the backstory. Get to the problem, the crisis, the challenge, the dilemma straight away and briefly add the backstory as the story unfolds. For example, if you or your character were fired from the job, start with getting the news (e.g. being called into the office) and NOT with how long and hard you worked for the company.
- Your stories are all about you. To make a story compelling, it has to be relevant for the audience and, simply put, it gets boring very quickly when you talk about the same character all the time – you!
- Make sure the story you tell is relevant for the topic AND the audience. In other words, avoid meaningless, boring, over-personal details. Just because you think a particular story is good, interesting, funny, etc., doesn’t mean it’s relevant! Always ask yourself before telling a story, “How does this story illustrate the point I want to make?”
Now that you know what NOT to do when telling a story, the next question is, “How do you tell great stories?”
Stay tuned to find out!