In his useful post, Why Storytelling is the Ultimate Weapon, Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal, states that science backs up the long-held belief that story is the most powerful means of communicating a message. He refers to a new business storytelling book, Tell to Win, by Peter Guber. I have written about storytelling a lot on this blog (see Storytelling and Knowledge Management: A Serial in Six Parts). See also Howard Gardner’s book on Changing Minds about great leaders always have a story. As Jean Luc Godard said “Sometime reality is too complex. Stories give it form.”
The post offers some new input. It seems that researchers are looking into the power of stories. The results have consistently shown that our attitudes, fears, hopes, and values are strongly influenced by stories. Fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than writing that is specifically designed to persuade through argument and evidence. I guess Godard could have told them that but it is nice to see some data to back it up.
Gruber argues that people are more moved by stories that dense PowerPoint slides for example. Here I greatly agree and know some other research to back it up. I was involved with a research group that looked at stories told verbally and stories shown with illustrations. They found that there were much higher scores of aspects of imagination from the auditory only slides when the participants were debriefed. This is not to say illustrations do not have their use but save then for things like pictures, charts, etc.
I always see good speakers stop using the slides when they start the story. This is a practice I always try to follow. I will often put together a slide show for a presentation. Then I go through and see where to put the stories and keep the stories away from the slides so the audience is not focusing on the slides but on my words and their imagination.