May 25, 2007

News & Opinion: The art of telling stories

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 2:14 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Storytelling is an art. It entertains, teaches and shares. From the time we're told the tale of the boy who cried wolf to the stories in newspapers and magazines, our lives are inundated with stories.
Research supports storytelling. People tend to remember facts more accurately if they encounter them in a story rather than in a list, studies find.
Storytelling helps authors write. It helps businesses communicate ideas. It helps parents teach children lessons.
One storyteller, who has been around since he was 19, is none other than the famed Mr. Ira Glass; now he has 1.7 million people listening to his show, This American Life. I ran into this link a few weeks ago and finally had a chance to watch it. It was worth my time. In four YouTube videos, Ira talks about his art:

(1) On the Basics

Use anecdotes. Raise questions from the beginning; build that tension (or as Dan and Chip would say, build that curiosity gap).
(2) On Finding Stories
It'd be great if every story ended up working. Chances are, they won't. Ira and his expert story-seeking team spend half the week looking for stories. In the end, they kill a half to a third of the stories they find. By killing it you will make something even better live.
(3) On Good Taste
Put in that extra effort; your stories will reflect it.
(4) Two Common Pitfalls
Faking it and a poor personality can both detract from a good story. Ira encourages you to be yourself. No one else can be you.
If you have a half hour, check out Ira on storytelling. If you run across other good storytellers, drop me a comment. And enjoy your long weekend!

About Dylan Schleicher

Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.