Storytelling

2 mins

Today I was lucky to attend a workshop on storytelling held by Matt.

In two short hours, we did various thought exercises, shared our tips on telling good stories, and were asked to write and tell various stories - both factual and fictional.

At the end, we each explained what we'd learned.

My favourite take-away was that it's useful to include things in your story that are important to the people listening. This helps engage them. Some of these might be:

  • Themselves
  • Food
  • The company they work for
  • Explosions
  • Shock, awe & swearing

Some other things I learned about are that:

  • The delivery of a story is very important.
  • Having a beginning, middle and end is a good strategy - the end could be a moral or a cliffhanger. Ending on a point/punchline brings clarity to listeners. Conversely, people react well to suspense and surprise.
  • Adding intrigue, twists and revelations - topped with a satisfying ending - can keep listeners engaged.
  • People can relate to the protagonist (hero) and antagonist (villain) structure. Having someone to care about/root for, or to dislike, is useful.
  • Stories are innate to humans, and they make things easier to remember.
  • What makes a good story has changed over time.
  • Benefits include sensemaking, emotional engagement, advanced understading.
  • Having 'some friction in the fiction' - i.e. making people think and creating a balance of effort and reward - can keep listeners engaged.
  • Having believable characters is important - people can smell lack of authenticity!
  • Making stories silly/fun. A story can be what you make it. Why make it serious?
  • Using visual analogies helps - e.g. the pile of clothes was as tall as Mt. Everest. Images are enjoyable and easy to remember.

Storytelling is an incredibly powerful tool in the web developer's arsenal. It can help us build better relationships with clients, staff, friends, and family. It can help us better understand ourselves. As a communication tool it can be used as an icebreaker and a point of reference. I think it's in the interest of anyone and everyone to practice telling stories. It is a tried and tested medium for better understanding of ourselves and others. Go tell!