What is storytelling?
Storytelling is the act of communicating ideas through a story that actively engages the audience’s imagination. It can be used to pass memories, personal experiences, life lessons or completely made-up scenarios – and is used both in real life and the business world. In the modern world, storytelling uses many mediums, from social media videos to product presentations and personal statements.
According to the National Storytelling Network (NSN US), storytelling is an art and a valuable form of human expression. The organization, focusing on the cultural aspects of storytelling mentions five critical elements of a good story:
- Interactivity – direct connection between the teller and the audience, where the responses of listeners can influence the tale;
- Language – distinguishing storytelling from other art forms while building the character of the story;
- Actions – physical movements such as gestures, vocalization used by the speaker, or action hooks in the written story;
- Story – a structured way of presenting the narrative idea;
- Active imagination – used by the narrator to create immersive worlds of ideas and invite the audience to the journey.
What defines good storytelling?
According to David JP Philips, presentation expert, there is a science behind a good story. During his TedX Talk, The Magical Science of Storytelling, he points out great storytelling can lead to the emission of the same neurotransmitters in our brain as love. It engages different parts of the brain than data, shaping consumer behavior and heightening the audience’s attention. According to Philips, the power of business storytelling lies in the precise use of this knowledge.
This also underlines the importance of audience research. A truly compelling story should be adjusted to your listener, to guarantee he will be paying attention.
Make sure your actions and words speak to the listener’s imagination, establishing a connection and emotional rapport. It’s possible your audience never had any of the experiences you are mentioning, but they can imagine, empathize, and feel them. After all, at their core, stories began as a means of human connection.
Don’t hesitate to use skills coming from other arts. Great speakers use comedic value, intonation, and acting, drawing attention not just from the message but also through their charismatic personality traits and body language. Use your instincts and your emotional intelligence. In a world saturated with new technologies and machine learning, sincere human interaction gains a lot of value. The only way to guarantee attention is to speak in words that can affect the human mind.
The words you use in your story should create the surroundings on the journey path, but at the same time make sure there are no unnecessary distractions. When drafting a story, try to keep it concise. As underlined by HubSpot’s free Power of Storytelling course, the goal of great stories is to solidify abstract concepts and simplify complex messages.
Problems and solutions
Try to illustrate your main point with some personal life experience. This exercise might be especially useful for current job seekers. If you ever wondered what a hiring manager wants when they ask you to share a time you made a mistake at your previous job, it’s not an admission of faultiness. Questions like this are actually a gate for you to tell a story on how you managed solving problems your prior experience and what kind of lessons did you draw from it.
How can you use storytelling in your freelance skill set?
Storytelling is considered to be one of the transferable skills, which means while it might not be directly related to the job, it will definitely prove useful. You will find use for your new skills on every step of your career level, regardless of what kind of freelancing you do.
Imagine you’re tasked with describing a newly developed powerful tool to a customer. You’re aware it runs on hours of people skills, such as data analysis, problem solving, time management and knowledge of programming languages. But while tables full of calculations and technical jargon might be important to the success of the company’s products, they won’t be interesting or clear for the client. How can you formulate a story that will stick in their memory? A good idea is to illustrate how the product can directly benefit users.
Or maybe you’re looking for a new job, and you want to pitch your services to the client. Even with the most impressive online portfolio, your story is what can ultimately make you stand out as a freelancer. Instead of just offering your services, seek connections between you and your recipient and try to imply how you can shape or ease the future of his business, through success stories and personal expertise.
With just the right mix of skills and some ambition, you can really uplift your freelance career. And just like every skill level, every story starts with an empty draft. We hope this article helped to highlight how your new skill can prove useful, and what aspects to include to guarantee a smooth path on your storytelling journey.