I have sat through A LOT of boring computer science lectures. If you can imagine, it’s sometimes like listening to a person read the phone book. That makes it very easy to tune out the lecture and focus on my favorite daydream of lying on the beach with a cool drink in my hand while the warm water tickles my toes. Unfortunately, I didn’t find too many questions about toe-tickling on the exams.
Fortunately, not all of my professors were like this. One afternoon while sitting in a (boring) lecture, my 80-year-old professor, dressed in a crisp suit with a scarlet ascot, started talking about his early days in the industry. He talked about how he, along with just a select few others in the world, were learning and using this cutting edge computer technology to build the basis of so many ideas we use today. He spoke about working with incredible visionaries, getting published in many impressive journals, and the thrills of being on the forefront of the technology revolution. He was able to take this boring, mundane lecture topic, and really captivate his audience.
So what does this have to do with anything? His lecture was intriguing because he was using storytelling to get his point across. You may not realize it, but you are much more likely to not only pay attention, but remember the information when someone gives it to you in story (or parable) form. Which sounds more exciting to you: Someone reading facts straight out of a text book, or hearing a tantalizing tale about the days when the industry was like the wild west?
Here’s another example: If you remember way back to your high school math class, you might recall learning how to calculate the volume of a cylinder. A typical, boring teacher might put the formula up on the board (V = pi*r^2*h) and you would copy it down to study later. But, if instead, your teacher told a story about the time he was working on a construction project and lost his calculator so he had to use shoestrings to measure his cylinder and a stick to do his calculations in the dirt, you are much more likely to listen AND REMEMBER his teachings.
Storytelling is a very powerful tactic that you should absolutely be using in your communications with your audience. You can use true stories about yourself, about friends, about historic figures, or anyone else. The point is, people will pay more attention to your message if it’s engaging.
Another bonus of using storytelling is that it helps your audience build a connection with you. When you speak to them like a friend (as you do when telling a story), they stop thinking of you as someone just trying to get their money, and start feeling like they’re on this journey with you.
So the next time you want to blast out an announcement about a new product, think of how you have used the product, or plan to use the product, or how your mom loved the product. Put it into a story that’s funny, inspirational, or entertaining in some way. Your audience will enjoy it more and you will see much better responses!