Anyone with children knows that one of the best ways to keep them quiet (for more than five minutes) is to read them a story. A well made book with great illusions will always help, but with my little girl I find that I can also make up stories (using trick-of-the-trade storytelling formulas) that keep her equally as engaged. Well told stories in any form, moving image, music or written will have this effect.
It doesn't stop with children either. Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Staffordshire Business Festival which had loads of wonderful events and speakers that gave talks about their businesses. Now some did give sales pitches, some were more engaging than others, but the ones that really stood out, told great stories.
One man in particular, told a compelling story about how his business started up, how it grew, how it almost fell and how they saved it in the knick of time, with risky choices and brave decisions; resulting in the success it is today. It wasn't until the end of his presentation that I broke my attention and began to appreciate what he had done. The room was watching, listening, and engaging with this man. He didn't give us any more or less information than the previous speakers had, we just heard every word this time, because he told us in a storytelling format.
Good stories always have one key thing in common. They always show a journey of change. They go from good to bad, then back to good again. They show a normal day, throw in a problem, then show the audience how that problem was overcome, resulting in an improved situation and a learning curve that we can understand.
We love this familiar format because we learn easily from it because that’s how we have been learning since the dawn of time. We sat around campfires and heard about how Dad got bitten by a saber-tooth cat, but managed to escape with his life after doing something clever. We learned about how when the crops started to inexplicably die, somebody had the courage to try something new and saved the town from famine. We read about how even in her darkest hour, the entrepreneur didn't give up after losing everything and how the unassuming friend she had shown kindness to years before, saved the day, turning the situation around through trust and good teamwork.
Stories were the original lessons, the original form of education and we as humans instinctively engage with them. This is why my daughter loves stories so much and this is why the key to effective communication, education, marketing or even sales is to figure out what information you need to get across and then do it with a great story.