How Do We Build Great Storytelling?

Let me tell you a story.

Storytelling is woven into our DNA. We’ve survived as a species because of the stories we told each other and the dramas we’ve enacted. We persevere, we strive, we fall down and we stand up because of the narratives we live within. The stories are not only in us, but are us.

The basics of great storytelling are simple: be relatable so the audience cares, and be valuable - have a point. Every other aspect of storytelling stems from these two things. All of the color, humor, personality, information and emotion germinate from our ability to relate and to offer something of worth.

Being relatable means that we see ourselves in you. And while “you” may be an individual, a brand or an organization, it’s still about creating some kind of a connection. Harper Lee’s "To Kill A Mockingbird" still resonates in part, because we admire Atticus’s steadfast grace and calm. He is aspirational. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” has crashed through history precisely because he’s presented a Founding Father who is poor, orphaned and ambitious. He’s literally, one of us. 

Remember Coca-Cola®’s great 1970’s commercial (Revived for the 2015 finale of Mad Men) that announced “I’d like to teach the world to sing…?” Coca-Cola® hit gold with that commercial precisely because it struck a cord with people worldwide, who longed for even a moment of sunshine, simplicity and a lack of strife. If a sweet, carbonated beverage can give me that, then hell yes, I’m drinking!

That’s also where value comes in. What is the point of the story? What am I getting for my investment of time and energy into you? The answers range from entertainment or instruction to inspiration and intellectual nut-cracking. The perceived value is as varied as we are, and yet, that there must be a value, is absolute. Who among us has not been subjected to a distant relative’s incredibly detailed account of her last round of lumbago issues, while you’re trying desperately to focus on your green bean casserole at the Thanksgiving table?

Value is the revelation of the murderer in an Agatha Christie novel. It’s the culmination and the satisfaction. It’s the actual origin scene in an origin story where everything we’ve learned and experienced leads us to this moment. Relatability may be why we opted to sit in the seat and take the journey to begin with, but it’s the knowledge there is value to be had, that keeps us listening, looking, reading and engaged.

Storytelling is an art. Great human storytelling is complicated and involves plot and timing, detail and expanse, and a life or death need to share and connect. Maybe it even involves snappy lyrics and a tap routine. At the heart, at the center of any narrative, is us. It’s all stories of us, whether it’s a piece of art hanging on a museum wall or one of Aesop’s Fables. When we tell stories, whether as an individual or a business, we are fundamentally, creating a change. We’re crafting a moment in time where we’re changing the perception of our audience. It’s powerful. It’s revolutionary. It’s human.

LB Adams is the Founder of Practical Dramatics, headquartered in Charleston, SC.  Her company provides a wealth of soft skills training events that utilize theatre strategies to help humans grow more profitable conversations with other humans. To learn more about business storytelling, please reach out to us at 843-771-0753.