Guest Blog Entry by John McDermott
“But the book was so much better than the movie,” my wife said. I agreed. I’ve heard that a lot. Along with it, I’ve heard “I thought the woods were darker”, “David seemed older than that in the book”, and so forth. When we hear or read stories we create mental images of them. When we tell stories we hold our own images of them. Our pictures can be so strong that we think listeners will see the same images. They might not, though, if we don’t share the details of what we see.
Consider this brief description of a scene:
Casey and Charley were discussing the new policy. Neither could decide how it was different from the old one. Both agreed it would be necessary to ask for clarification.
This is fine. It conveys a message. But it is wide open to interpretation. Some of that may be intentional, but sometimes when we tell a story we need to supply more details to make the story relevant to the listener or reader. In a business environment, we need to ensure the WIIFM factor is clear.
Ambiguity can be a useful tool – such as with the names I chose – but it may make a difference in the images your readers or listeners create. Decide if it matters and act accordingly.
When you design a story into a presentation or training event, you can write and re-write it, or even ask someone else to read the story to ensure that it is clear. But if you are speaking off-the-cuff in a meeting or a presentation, you’ll want to think about the scene you are setting in order to accurately convey it to your listeners. Look at that scene in your mind’s eye and describe the important parts. It will take work at first, but the reward is that your listeners will be more engaged with your story.
John will be talking about impromptu storytelling at ATD’s International Conference and Exposition in San Diego on Sunday, May 6th and hopes to see you there. If you attend his session, be sure to say hello!