Long live the story – the next generation is counting on you
Whether you are riding the wave or drowning in the undertow of AI and ChatGPT-4, you are not alone. Pile on decibels of intrigue and panic caused by bank collapses and bailouts in this already hypertense environment and it becomes a challenge of epic proportion. The world is filled with constantly changing stories that reflect the trending ebbs and flows of daily life and work. As an encore to World Storytelling Day, let’s take a closer look at our love affair with stories and explore ways to harness their power and fit them into our future for maximum impact.
I come from a long line of storytellers. Grandaddy was one of those brilliant orators who had a special talent for making his words come to life and drawing others into them. Sparks of delight flew as friends and neighbors joined in the conversation when they stopped by the house to share their garden bounties. The allure of their tales took me to lands far beyond the garden gate. Those formative years started my lifelong infatuation with stories and the people who tell captivating ones, just like my Grandaddy.
As my fascination grew, I realized I was not the only one enchanted by their powers. A closer look reveals the human body is programmed for stories. When we hear a compelling one, it can change the way our brain works and potentially change our brain chemistry, causing empathy, caring and social bonding. This is according to Dr. Paul Zak, scientist, professor and tech entrepreneur. In other words, stories remind us we are human. They invite us to step inside someone else’s shoes and get an understanding of what it feels like to be them. Plus, introduce us to experiences we never thought possible. Many of those same discoveries I made as a little girl with golden pigtails.
Pete Docter, Oscar-winning director and chief creative officer at Pixar Animation Studios puts it this way. “The power of a story is that it has the ability to connect with people on an emotional level.” When you get right down to it, they can ignite our imagination, move us to tears, help us to remember and cause us to act. Quite a strong case as we look to the future, don’t you think?
Passing the baton
From cave drawings and campfires to social media, gaming and binge-worthy films, stories have allowed us to communicate throughout the ages. Now the future calls on us to continue the tradition as modern-day storytellers. To prepare the next generation too. Our ability to inspire the human spirit will be more important than ever as we navigate artificial intelligence, robotics and digital transformation. Global issues ranging from scarcity and sustainability to inequality will require contemporary narratives that spotlight people helping people in their quest to adapt and thrive in ever-changing environments. Are you up for the challenge?
Story impact questions
Not every story is created equal. If you want folks to put down their phones and stop scrolling, you first must capture their attention. This requires a little thought and preparation. For an extra dose of intrigue and relatability, consider these questions:
- What story do you want to tell? Why?
- What emotion(s) were you feeling when the story unfolded?
- How will you communicate those feelings?
- Who is your story for?
- Will it resonate with your audience?
- What will draw them in?
- Why should they care?
- Will it give them hope, offer new solutions, improve their life?
- How would you like to impact the listener?
- What approach will you take?
5 Tips for modern-day storytellers
Enlist your social media profile picture as an ambassador for your personal brand story
Did you know your profile pic on LinkedIn and your company’s website can speak volumes about you before anyone reads a single word? According to 3M Corporation’s Visual Systems Division, the average human can process images 60,000 times faster than words. A good photo can make a powerful statement about you in an instant. Are you confident, likeable, energetic, passionate, would you be good to work with? It can offer a glimpse into who you are and what you stand for. What does your profile picture say to others? Is it current, professional? If yours is older than 24 months, it is time for a refresh. Before you say “cheese” consider these questions:
- What do you want your profile photo to say about you?
- What elements of your personal brand do you want it to convey?
- Does it encourage others to learn more about you and what you do?
Share stories that humanize your work
We often enlist our job titles as conversation starters. Beware, this can lead to dead ends if they don’t make sense to others. Most people will not admit “I have no idea what that means.” Why not pique their interest with a narrative that helps them understand the work you do? Take them inside the life of a data scientist, digital transformation leader, chief diversity officer or change management specialist. Help them get to know the person behind it all. Post clips on social media about interesting, even quirky elements of your work. Talk about what led you on this path and why you enjoy it. Tell about breakthroughs in your research. Share a comment from a client that made your whole week and why you felt that way. Don’t be surprised to find all sorts of new connections with those around you.
Give them an “insider’s look”
People are inquisitive. They want to be the first to know what’s happening. Share a story that takes them inside a project you are passionate about. Create a “behind the scenes” video clip before the official event. Offer a “sneak peek” of your pitch to a potential investor prior to launch day. Don’t worry if it is not perfect, especially in its early days, according to Baba Shiv, Stanford Graduate School of Business professor. His research finds people often feel a greater attachment to evolving projects when they can provide insight to help move them along. Use these opportunities to initiate conversations that encourage input and gain support for a project, service or startup.
Help them see new ways forward with thought leadership
Do you have extensive experience or knowledge in a particular industry or specialty? What about emerging topics, such as diversity, agility or sustainability? If so, position yourself as a down-to-earth thought leader with oodles of relatability. Be the voice of reason. Help them see new ways forward. Focus on practical wisdom they can put to work in their daily lives. Host a podcast or create a blog that offers fresh insight to address contemporary challenges. Invite them to gather around the conference table for meaningful future-focused discussions on current topics. Speak at an industry event or pen an article for their newsletter. Your tribe of followers will grow over time as they come to rely on your insight.
Tell stories that reach beyond you and your company
The 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that 63% of people buy or advocate for brands based on beliefs and values. Whether you are driven by access to clean water, mentoring young leaders or fighting homelessness, tell stories to help others understand what causes are important to you and your business. Create videos and photos that show you and your colleagues in action. Inject your culture, brand values and personality into each one you tell. Need a little inspiration from modern-day storytellers with their eyes on the future? Check out Patagonia Stories – it is filled with ideas for those who want to make an impact.
Long live the story
This is only the start of storytelling for a modern world. Now it’s time to add your flair in fueling imaginations as we move into the unknown. The next generation is counting on you.