After hearing Martin Waxman recount the keynote Soledad O’Brien gave on the opening day of the PRSA conference (I was playing hooky), about storytelling, and having written about creating an online conversation just yesterday, I’ve been thinking a lot on the topic.
Once upon a time, storytelling was the way we passed information from generation to generation.
Before tweeting and Facebook and text messaging, we had only one way to tell stories: Long-form.
For millions of years stories have been told around campfires and in family rooms and at holidays. But in our world of fast everything, we’re losing the art of spinning a good yarn.
Stories are what creates the human element of what we do. And, in fact, the human element is what drives kinship, which drives purchase.
So, here we are, focused on what drives sales, but we’re forgetting to be human (more on that in a week or so when I do a book review of Maddie Grant’s and Jamie Notter’s new book Humanize).
Enter The Moth, a nonprofit organization that helps people tell their stories.
From Malcolm Gladwell and Jonathan Franze to criminals and the homeless, the organization provides workshops that teach you how to look at your life, from beginning, middle, and end and not only learn something from it, but to help others.
If you’re good enough to keep an audience captive, the organization will book you at an open mic local event where, without music, notes, or (gasp!) PowerPoint slides, you tell your story.
Just you, a microphone, an audience, and 15 minutes of uninterrupted time.
Storytelling for Business
Two of the questions we ask when we’re interviewing a candidate is, ‘What was the last thing you read? Which blogs and media are in your Google Reader?”
We ask these questions because what a person reads tells a lot about what kind of writer they are…even before they take our writing test. If they stumble over the question or answer it with “nothing,” we know they’re not a right fit for Arment Dietrich.
Reading makes you a better writer, and a better storyteller, even if we don’t agree on whether or not the author is a good writer (I’m a literary snob).
I’m going to assume a good many of you have at least seen one or two Ted videos, if not subscribe and watch to most of them. Watching these videos makes you smart on upcoming trends, ideas, or even helps you move out of your comfort box.
And now you have the opportunity to subscribe, and listen, to people’s stories through The Moth podcast.
While your reading may only be fiction and the Ted videos you watch are about leaders you admire and The Moth stories you listen to are about people such as “retired pickpocket” Sherman “O.T.” Powell, the thing you’ll learn is how to tell a really great story.
You tell me…wouldn’t you rather work with a company that is a great storyteller than one that can talk only about its latest drill bit?