Rhanna Andrade

Rhanna Andrade

08 Nov 2019 5 min read

Once upon a time there was a really cool talk

Remember that long talk, with a very interesting subject, but with a multitude of data and topified technical details? No? Well, you can breathe easy, because it's not your fault.

sleepy kid

Child with sleepy expression, half open mouth and heavily blinking eyes

Everyone loves a good story. Who has never spent hours in front of the TV marathoning a series, eager to know the fate of people who aren't even real but, for a brief moment, we care as if they were? A good plot engages and connects, and this is the reaction we want from our audience when we deliver a talk.

The storytelling has been widely used in Design, either in creating personas or even on mapping the user's journey of a particular product. The beauty of this technique is that it can be used at various stages of a project, from conception to presentation. It is a tool that, for a long time, is no longer exclusive of fiction, being a way of formulating thoughts that can be applied in various activities. And that's what we'll talk about in this article.

At the very end, it's all about emotion

When we present a study to an audience, we are competing with a lot of stimuli that may interest them. The first few minutes can be decisive in capturing attention and showing why our subject is important. And to convince the public of its importance, we must show our human side by connecting with real stories that can somehow promote identification with the various realities standing there.

When people connect, they start to care. And that's what we hope: for our message to be heard and, above all, for our audience to want to hear it. It will be this feeling of empathy that will make the shown information, somehow, stay in audience's memory in a more organic way.

How can something technical become a story?

We are genuine storytellers and our ancestry reminds us that, with tales that have been transmitted from generation to generation. We just need to understand the best way to tell our narrative.

Joseph Campbell studied the myths and events of humanity, and eventually devised a kind of formula for the construction of a narrative, which became known as the hero's journey. To think about the structure of the presentation, we can take part of this concept and create our own journey. Evolving a line of reasoning that sounds like a plot is a great starting point for increasing engagement in our lectures. We can divide the development of the presentation into three acts:

dog hero

Superhero dog montage flying in space until collides with a exploding satellite

Act I - The Hero's Departure

This is the moment when we “break the ice” with the audience. In the hero's departure, we talk about our context with the chosen subject and how important it is to us. That's when we connect with the audience, also talking about our pains and aspirations. At this point, we should reference our motivations for “starting our journey”. A good example is to discuss the problems that led us to talk about the chosen topic, telling possible situations you went through.

Act II - The Initiation

In the second act, we talk about our main problem itself. We tell what are the difficulties and discoveries of the paths taken to reach the result of our study, in an accessible manner, avoiding formality and jargon that are not always familiar to the audience. Remember: the idea is to connect with as many people as possible.

Act III- The Return

The hero's return is the moment of resolution. Here we show that the knowledge we gain throughout the journey is the reward of all difficulties encountered. It is the closure time of the ideas presented so far, with the lessons learned.

If I were presenting a talk with this Storytelling theme, for example, I could use the following structure:

Act I Example

Tell about my presentations skills. Remembering school days, since when it was always hard for me to speak to an audience, even if I mastered the content. Try to bring a little humor and show that it was essential to find a good way to structure my lectures. This is the time we expect the public to identify with my struggles.

Act II Example

Here I can talk more about my inferences and findings regarding the obstacles to engage audiences during a lecture. Show some of the inferences that can help transform a study into a good story, by explaining what Joseph Campbell proposed for the hero's journey and, optimistically, suggest that everyone knows how to tell a good narrative, each to his own way.

Act III Example

At the end of the talk, I can bring a brief example on how to apply what I have learned on my own road, just as I am doing now in this blogpost. To conclude, talk briefly about how this learning can impact my life.

To establish narrative with this process is a manner of organizing content as a progression of facts that generates expectation. The audience walks along with the narrator, following a path to the tougher point of the challenge and following the dissolution of it. This gradation is a way of leading the audience to “the moral of the story,” which is the most important information to convey. What were the tales our parents told us, when we were kids, but a way of teaching us some values? The logic remains the same, what changes now is the content that we want to remain in people's minds.

The psychologist Jerome Bruner, one of the pioneers of cognitive psychology, stated:

"Stories are about 22 times more memorable than facts alone"

After briefly reading about Storytelling and the hero's journey, I hope this phrase from Jerome Bruner will be the icing on the cake to convince you of the power of a good Storytelling. So, don't be afraid and be ready to turn your studies and findings into memorable stories.