What is storytelling?
Storytelling as you probably can imagine literally means telling stories. The key is HOW you tell the story. The magic trick with this technique is to have the audience enthusiastically anticipating what will happen next. Interestingly, storytelling is not a 21st-century invention or a novelty in business. The roots go back to the original tribes, which by means of cave drawings conveyed the history of their families and events. Later there were philosophers, the Bible, fairy tales, and finally, we reach the present day, spectacular speeches such as the presentation of the new device by Steve Jobs.
In this article, you will learn what storytelling is, the hero’s journey, where to use it, and whether everyone can be a storyteller, and you’ll also see examples of good stories.
Where can you use it?
Virtually everywhere. At work to motivate employee; in conversations with children when we want to convince them that spinach is their best friend; to translate correlation issues in statistics, which is assumed to be boring for students (with all due respect to statistics); while introducing yourself to a newly-met person; to create interesting content for a website or a heart-catching (and a wallet) advertisement or to write a book.
What are the storytelling rules?
The most important elements are:
- The hero
- Time, place (setting) and context of the situation
- Adversity or obstacle to be overcome
- Plot twist
- Victory, solution or defeating the enemy
12 stages of the hero's journey according to Joseph Campbell
Joseph Cambpell in the book “The Power of Myth” describes 12 stages through which the hero of the story goes. You can use it as a standard format, which will be included in our story. Feel free to modify the format slightly as you see fit.
- An ordinary world
Getting to know the hero and his everyday life and problems, we can identify with him and see that he is similar to us. At this stage, we learn the context – place, time of action and the characters. We see our hero, let’s call him Joe, in everyday situations.
- Call of adventure
A problem or challenge has risen. The hero’s status quo is disturbed and his world is changing. Joe may, for example, get a phone call with tragic news, lose something or get a promotion offer, which comes with a big challenge, e.g. constant public speaking, which Joe loathes.
- Hero’s resistance
Joe wonders, hesitates, calls his mother, asks random people on the street. There is resistance to change.
- Meeting of the mentor / sage
Along the way someone who is more wise and more experienced inspires Joe to take on the challenge. It helps him to see different perspectives and it galvanizes Joe into action.
- Take the challenge
Joe decides to set out on a metaphorical path.
- Testing or fighting the enemy
Of course, it can’t be so easy that you decide, take the challenge and bang, effect guaranteed. Therefore, Joe is subjected to various tests, discouragements, he has to face the enemy, e.g. if he wants to lose 20 kg, that enemy may be chocolate and his own weak-strong will.
- The cave of darkness
Joe begins to have doubts. Why do I need it? Why am I doing this to myself? Chocolate is so nice … And seriously, in coaching or psychotherapy this moment often occurs after a few sessions, when we leave the old patterns and we need to rearrange our interior again. Then often the client gives up and doesn’t continue therapy.
- Exposure and suffering
This is the so-called rock-bottom. The hero is confronted with the opponent and fails. For our Joe, it could be buying 10 bars of chocolate or a completely unsuccessful public speech.
- Searching for strength
Our hero has failed, but he finds strength in himself, rises up like a Phoenix from the ashes and goes into battle. This is also the moment when he can acquire esoteric knowledge, a secret or anything else that brings him closer to his goal.
- The way back
Armed with new knowledge and skills, Joe goes back to confront his obstacle again on his way to the final transformation.
The final battle with the enemy. This is the climax. Usually the recipients shed tears of emotion here.
- Return with a prize
Here comes the punch line, splendor for the hero and a great victory. The curtain falls.
Are we born as storytellers?
Some have a natural talent for telling stories and thus sparkle at social events. Praise them for it! The good news is that you can learn it. I think anyone can be a great speaker. How does one do it? By learning the rules and practising, practising, practising …
Examples of storytelling
We talk a lot about principles, journey and change, but what does it look like in practice? Below are a collection of several examples that beautifully use storytelling. We know, it’s always easier to understand something when we rely on specific examples 🙂
Hair Love – Oscar winner 2020
Adidas advertising spot
Ariel advertising spot
Let’s Eat – Award Winning Animated Short Film
Movies and books:
- Dead Poets Society
- Scent of a Woman
- The King’s Speech (it’s from our area of public speaking)
- Long Shot
- Desert flower
- A Star Is Born
- Beauty and the Beast
And many others. What are your favourite movies and books containing elements of well-constructed story?
- Marek, S. (2014). Storeytelling. Wydawnictwo EdisonTeam.pl.
- Marek, S. (2016). Sześć atutów storeytellingu. Wydawnictwo EdisonTeam.pl.
- Nossal, M. (2018). Powered by Storytelling: Excavate, Craft, and Present Stories to Transform Business Communication. Wydawnictwo Mcgraw Hill Book Co.
Hi. Welcome to my blog 🙂 I’m a psychologist and public speaking trainer. In 2021 I was chosen as one of the top 11 public-speaking coaches worldwide 2021, according to the Coach Foundation ranking. I work as a TEDx coach and Head of Speakers at TEDxZurich. I also help, among others, lawyers, vocalists, actors, lecturers and business people in preparation for their speeches in front of hundreds of people in the audience, as well as in conducting small meetings or presentations. For many years I worked on controlling the stage fright that kept me awake at night. I was singing and dancing in a Cuban musical. I have always wondered how to manage the internal critic, not to worry about the opinion of others, and how to build a real sense of confidence on stage. Now I know the answer.
Recently, I have given countless interviews, which made me aware of the importance of confidence in front of the camera. Having been involved in music since the age of 10, I know how stressful it can be to present to a wider audience. By combining my business and music experience, I can guide you through the process of changing direction towards your dreams. Based on my vast stage experience, I have gained the ability to provide adequate tools and methods of coaching that will support your development.