Emotions: The Secret to Great Storytelling


At the risk of being called Captain Obvious, I’d like to start this week’s newsletter by highlighting something about your audience – they are human, just like you!

And, as humans, they respond to moving stories that have an emotional arc, whether the tale is one of sorrow, hope, jealousy, joy or romance.

Advertisers know this. That is why you see heartwarming holiday season ads from companies like John Lewis and Sainsbury, and seductive perfume campaigns by Chanel that play like mini movies.

Let me entertain you

If you want to capture and keep the attention of your audience, weave stories with emotional content into your presentations (i.e. make your listeners feel something).

When a speaker takes to the stage, an audience is expecting 4 key things:

  •       Information
  •       Inspiration
  •       Persuasion
  •       Entertainment

Entertaining a crowd doesn’t mean reaching for the juggling balls or whipping out your best David Attenborough impersonation; it means drawing them in with an interesting story that will make them care about the information you are giving them or the product you are selling.

For example, imagine that you just sat through a straightforward presentation on how whiskey is made at a certain distillery. There was probably some interesting information in there, and you might have been persuaded to try the product.

Now think, how much more engaging would the presentation have been if you discovered that starting the business was the lifelong dream of Robert Macklemore who was struck down by smallpox in1875 and died before the first whiskey was bottled. His young widow Emily built the company in his memory, and even today the whiskey that evaporates from the barrel as the whiskey ages is known in the distillery as “Robbie’s share”.

Be aware of what you share

A good storyteller can pique your interest with a tale that contains emotions. However, a great storyteller actually feels the emotions of the story as they tell it and can trigger a similar emotional response in their listeners.

While it can be extremely powerful to put your own emotions into the story you are sharing, be careful not to make the experience too raw for your audience or for yourself.

I remember sharing a story with an audience shortly after making the painful discovery that I couldn’t have children. My emotions were still raw, and I found myself fighting to hold back the tears. As I took a breath to steady myself, the audience did likewise, and I realized that they were connecting with my pain.

Your imagination is the limit

Once you have settled on the main story you are telling, you can weave in other anecdotes or a little historical context to add interest. Think of your story as a soap opera with a main storyline supported by a couple of sub-plots.

Let me know what story you told to add a little annoyance, amazement, or a sprinkle of sweet tenderness into your talk. Just be sure not to overdo it. You want to move your audience, not manipulate them.

Let’s #Share #Learn #Grow