Last week, I had the opportunity to attend Digital Summit Chicago 2018, spending two days learning from leaders across the digital marketing field. The event included classes, workshop and keynotes on topics ranging from analytics to memes. The influx of information on best practices and tools was overwhelming, but no matter what was being shared, the goal was the same: To tell compelling stories that connect with audiences. Here are few insights I learned about storytelling at the event:
Not every piece of content is a story. The best way to determine whether something is a story is to ask yourself, “Why would my audience care?” If you can’t answer this question, it’s not a story yet. Readers and listeners have endless content available to them online, and they’re looking for something that will pay off their investment of attention. Always ask why your story matters to them and keep this reason front and center.
You don’t have to tell every story. Part of telling stories well is deciding what to pursue. Collect as many ideas as possible so you have the freedom to say no to stories that may not be the right timing, topic or tone. When choosing stories to tell, consider your audience’s needs and interests.
Combine essential storytelling elements. In her workshop, Megan Jones of The Moth shared her formula for remembering a story’s key aspects: CROWE.
Who are the main actors in your story, and what details do you need to share to connect them with your audience?
What are the important connections between characters – and between characters and the audience?
What are your characters’ goals?
What is your story’s setting? What details can you ground your story in?
What are the emotions of your characters, the overall tone of the story and the desired reaction from your audience? Remember, you can’t get anybody to do anything if they don’t feel something.
Don’t be afraid to include some small stuff. To help your audience connect with what you’re sharing, weave in sensory details, including audial, visual and physical. Storytelling can be found in details. Consider the difference between this pair of sentences from writer E.M. Forster:
The king died and then the queen died.
The king died and then the queen died of grief.
Think about what moves you. “Stories create meaning and envision futures, creating an impression that remains,” Megan Jones shared. To add meaning to your future stories, reflect on a story from childhood that resonated with you. Why was it so memorable? The next time you tell a story, keep that “why” in mind.