Are you using the power of storytelling in your Signature Talk? You should be – here’s why…

Once upon a time…

Storytelling… a very common phrase, which I’m sure you can recall from your childhood as you waited with anticipation to find out what journey you were about to embark on in the story that followed.

I know I can.

The power of storytelling has been around for centuries – even before the advent of writing.

Stories being passed from generation to generation around camp fires, through paintings and carvings on cave walls, on clay/stone tablets, or any other method that could immortalize a message.

This is how events were and continue to be passed down from generation to generation through the telling and sharing of stories using various mediums – even today.

I love a great story – whether captured in a book or a movie.

In fact one of my favorite movies of all times is the trilogy of the Lord of the Rings.

From the start of the first episode – Fellowship of the Rings, where Cate Blanchett (who plays the character of Galadriel – an elf queen, known as the Lady of the Woods) begins the story with the narration: “history became legend, and legend became myth and some things that should not have been forgotten were lost…” right through to the end where Frodo and Samwise Gamgee get to the top of the Mount Doom, ready to destroy the ring. I’m captured for hours on end by the characters and their journeys.

So why is storytelling so powerful? And, more importantly, why should you incorporate stories into your Signature Talk?

For many reasons.

Here are three reasons, which prove the impact that stories can make with your audience when you incorporate them into your Signature Talk:

  1. Stories will help you cut through the distraction;
  2. Stories will activate your audience’s brains;
  3. Stories can change people’s behaviours and actions.

Let’s look at each of these more closely.

1. Stories will help you cut through the distraction

We’re busy with hectic schedules.

As a speaker, you have to compete with these busy schedules and only have a small window of time to seize people’s attention.

However there’s also something else that can distract the attention of your audience.

According to studies (mentioned in the article ‘The Science of Storytelling: How Narrative Cuts Through Distraction’) we spend about half our waking hours fantasizing and daydreaming. In fact, we can have approximately two thousand daydreams a day, each lasting on average up to fourteen seconds.

That’s a lot of daydreaming.

So as a speaker, not only are we competing with frazzled, busy people and their mental ‘to-do’ lists, we also have to compete with their daydreams.

How do you cut through all that mental clutter?

Through storytelling.

According to studies, when people are absorbed in a good story they stop daydreaming. A good story can calm our distracted minds so we can then start to pay close attention to the story at hand – often for hours on end.

Imagine being able to capture your audience’s attention – for as long as you wanted.

You can…with a good story!

2. Stories will activate your audience’s brains:

According to the same studies mentioned above when we are absorbed in a good story, we are not just spectators, but participants.

We feel emotions.

So if a story is sad – we feel sad. When a story is funny – we laugh. When characters in a story become frustrated – we too can become frustrated.

The article “What Listening to a Story Does to our Brains” explains that when a story is told your audiences brains are activated and stimulated. Your audience can experience the emotions of the events you share because various parts of the brain are stimulated that only a story can activate.

Not only that, but when we share a story that has made an impact in our own way of thinking and our lives in general, the emotions and learnings we share can have a similar impact on your audience too.

“The brains of the person telling a story and the people listening can synchronize” according to Princeton representative, Uri Hasson.

When you share a story you can influence your audience so they get to experience the exact same thing.

The article goes on to mention a case study where through sharing a story a woman was able to synchronize her brain with her audience. When her frontal cortex lit up, theirs did too.

By telling a story, this woman was able to suggest ideas, thoughts and emotions into the brains of her listeners.

Just by sharing a story.

3. Stories can change people’s behaviours and actions.

According to the article: ‘Infecting an audience: why great stories spread’ telling a person that something should be a certain way does little to sway that person’s viewpoint. In fact, being told they should think or act a certain way only made them skeptical and critical.

However, when a story was told (in this case – a TV show) that presented certain ideas in a non-judgmental way, people were likely to move in the same non-judgmental direction.

The story caused people to become more empathetic with the ideas and viewpoints shared, versus being told how they should think and respond.

Stories can change our brain chemistry and therefore our behaviours and actions.

Powerful for sure.

So when it comes to your Signature Talk, rather than telling people what they should think or do – create a story that is non-judgmental so that your message can by-pass people’s resistance.

Let your story by-pass your audience’s skepticism and criticism so they can empathize with you. Because when you have empathy and understanding, people will become far more responsive to what you have to say. And, far more responsive to your call to action!

Happy story telling!


Check out the following relevant articles:

Find out how to leverage storytelling in your podcasts to engage, educate and entice your audience, here


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