The Art of Storytelling for National Storytelling Week

Nick Gold 26 January 2021

As National Storytelling Week  rolls around once more it has prompted me to delve more into the art of storytelling. After all, telling stories is as old as time itself. We can only imagine what it must have been like to sit around the fire and hear tales from those who came back from faraway lands, picturing a world that felt as alien to them as Mars is to us.

Human beings are a species of storytellers, stretching right back to the narrative imagery of prehistoric cave paintings. Through millennia, we have created legends and parables, told engrossing tales, made up jokes that have characters and mini plots.

Back in the day, storytellers captured the imagination by adjusting the pitch of their voice to paint a picture in the minds eye. They used words, perhaps in a foreign tongue, to thrill and excite, to question and to ponder. Pre-pandemic consider the conversations we had in bars, cafes, restaurants which had us on the edge of our seats, that provoked laughter, tears, and a shared bond.

Let us cast our minds back to when we stood up in the front of our classroom for show and tell. As children we were encouraged to describe what we did with our toy, the games we would play and the adventures we had.

The point is storytelling sits at the heart of great speeches, and there are many we can point back to in history to demonstrate this. But when we reach adulthood and set foot in the corporate world, we seem to forget this and instead start to bombard our audience with statistics, facts and data.

I accept the point we need to establish credibility and explaining what the data means certainly achieves this. But as a speaker you will struggle to connect with your audience at an emotional level, which will be a big stumbling block when your aim is to secure buy in to your hypothesis. This is why skillful storytelling helps listeners understand the essence of complex concepts and ideas in meaningful and often personal ways.

Having listened to 1000s of speakers over the years one thing is clear – audiences respond to stories. While a story may not be the most direct way to deliver your message, creating a narrative which brings out the facts in a way people want to hear will produce far greater engagement.

I’m often asked, whether it’s an aspiring public speaker or someone who has to present on a regular basis, how to engage with an audience. My response is to go and watch a stand-up comedian, where you’ll see how they weave their set together by telling stories. An even better option is to go back again the following night, in the same venue, and watch how the same act is delivered in a completely different way based on the audiences response.

Finally, imagine what it was like when you had to sit through a presentation that left you disengaged. I would wager you want to leave your audience in a completely different mindset. This is why great storytelling can elevate the mundane.

National Storytelling Week takes place 30th January – 6th February 2021.

The Art of Storytelling is one chapter within Nick Gold’s book; Speaking With Confidence , published by Penguin Business Experts. Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, is incredibly common and can inhibit our chances of career progression by up to 15%. Nick reveals his decades of experience coaching and producing some of the best speakers in the country have been condensed here into one expert guide to help you connect with your audience every time.

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