What's your story

Storytelling: How to influence your audience through story

3 March 2021
Posted in: Events, News

Once upon a time, there was....

Have I got your attention? Good! Then sit comfortably, and listen to this...

We have been telling stories since the dawn of time, and lately, Storytelling has become especially popular. Science informs us that when facts are contained within stories, then the listener will remember the content more effectively!

This shall be explained below, but for now, it's time to ask why more people than ever before are telling stories — in performances for children, entertaining friends at social gatherings, and even in keynote addresses within company meetings.


Why do we tell stories?

One reason for this resurgence is that we live our lives 'like' a story, in a sequence of events. We try to find the 'truth' of our lives amongst the chaos of everyday living.

Many people also seek a sense of 'belonging' by speaking about their experiences. This helps us to get closer to understanding life's mysteries!

Historically, we have seen Myths used to explain natural and extraordinary happenings. Legends have woven great stories about heroes and heroines, with exploits added over time. We also see the use of Folktales, in past times especially, as bedtime stories. These have been a useful guide for youngsters about how to live carefully and wisely.

Fantasy stories allow us to enter the magic realm of the imagination. This can allow for freedom of expression, where an author explores the boundaries of 'other' possible worlds. It is a paradox worth considering that good fiction allows us to examine a particular truth.

The Naked truth about something is not always appreciated!

A good story can influence anyone

Storytelling may 'feel' like a harmless old creature, but watch out! If used in a certain way, stories can bite. We see this every day with powerful stories influencing decisions in the fields of Business and Politics.

You may well be wondering — how can Storytelling be so effective?

Spartan heroSpartan hero

The Hero's Journey is a model of storytelling that anyone can use to tell rich and rewarding stories.

The Hero's Journey - a model for effective storytelling

Consider the model known as 'The Hero's Journey', developed many years ago by the famous author and researcher Joseph Campbell. Campbell discovered that many of the great world mythologies have similar stories. A central character goes on a quest to overcome a series of problems and returns victorious.

These stories can often include princes, queens, magicians, monsters, magic gift-givers, liars, cheats, false-turnings, and luckily, the odd wise-woman to help the young adventurer on the way. But they ALL possess a key ingredient, the 'unexpected', as the chosen one meanders through the maze of events. (Hopefully you, the listener, are on the edge of your seat!)

The best way to create 'feeling' or empathy, is by telling a story


Follow this structure to empower your Influence

The Hero's Journey is a model of storytelling that has endless variations for a learner to appreciate. Once studied, it reveals many possibilities, so that in a short space of time it is possible to tell rich and rewarding stories.

The challenge is to apply the rules of engagement for this magic realm to real-life stories. Is it really possible to tell useful stories about ourselves at the office? In a word, Yes!

This is where the terrain can suddenly feel closer to home. Have you ever felt that you were influenced by a colleague before making a decision about an important matter? There's a high probability you were told a story.

If something affects our emotions, then it is highly likely to have a stronger effect on our judgement.


So how does the decision-making process work?

According to the world of Science, we are guided more by our sense of 'feeling' about something than by the presentation of 'facts'. If something affects our emotions, then it is highly likely to have a stronger effect on our judgement.

This is extremely important in the Business world, which relies upon how we use our own Influence. (Drumroll....!) The best way to create 'feeling' or empathy, is by telling a story. In addition, our brains remember the details of a well-told story much more than they do 'information' that is not in story-form.

It works like this:

Learn how to get your message across by telling a story about yourself. The analogy is similar to the Hero's Journey where a character is persevering against the odds to achieve a goal

  • 1. Early in the story, you say something that creates a link with your audience (Hook)
  • 2. The story develops a theme that is personal and establishes empathy
  • 3. The audience becomes the 'Hero' and is taken on the journey
  • 4. Different possibilities are put forward, that spell out your vision; and the consequences of not taking action
  • 5. The story ends with a clear resolution of the problem, (and possibly a 'call to action')

Now, just to repeat: You are not the 'Hero', but rather the 'Mentor', guiding your listener to a better outcome. The model is extremely flexible. It can be a story about oneself, a colleague, a Company (or 'Brand'), or a client/customer.

The Storyteller needs to make many choices, such as which story to tell, how to tell it effectively, how much detail to include, and the length of the tale. (Simple! I hear you say... ) Well, the fun part is digging for stories!


City Lit offers two courses to help you along

'Storytelling for Business and Pleasure' and 'Stories for Business and Pleasure 2'.

View the full catalogue of storytelling courses here

'Storytelling for Business and Pleasure' explains The Hero's Journey in great detail. Other types of story are also studied. These might range from African Anansi stories to Japanese Zen narratives.

In 'Stories for Business and Pleasure 2', we unlock the secret of how it is possible to use “story” as a tool for empowering one's Influence.

Become a storyteller

Recently, there has been an exciting new addition to the range of Storytelling courses: 'Tell Your Personal Story'. In this course, recent life experiences — as well as deeper memories —are fashioned into highly original stories. We consider the different ways of packaging and using such a story within a group of like-minded participants. This includes a look at how this magical process of creating empathy occurs, and how one creates 'curiosity' to draw in a listener, as we put 'Story' under the microscope.

Luckily, all 3 of these courses require no previous qualifications and provide an excellent launchpad into other subject areas, such as VoicePublic speaking and business communicationPresenting, and Acting.


About the authour, John Eastman

John is an Actor, Freelance Business Consultant, Facilitator, and Voiceover.

After Drama training in Queensland, Australia, he moved to London and completed his MA in Education from Central School of Speech and Drama.

He has recently completed 10 Years of part-time teaching at City Lit. As well as being a consultant, he enjoys working on Education projects for companies including the Royal National Theatre, and the Primary Shakespeare Company.