Monday, July 10, 2006

Storytelling as best practice

June 6, 2006 10:00am to 11:00am

Speaker: Andy Goodman (

‘The role of family and community in mentoring Alienated youth in the American Mid-west’ or in simpler words the story of Dorothy and the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz.

If you are one of those people who would be most likely to use the first rather than the second description chances are you would lose your audience before you finish your sentence. Or so believes, Communications Consultant, Andy Goodman.
Mr. Goodman said that most people are bad communicators simply because they are bad story-tellers. This is because they tend to use language which is convoluted, full of facts and jargon and, in short, unimaginably boring. Non –profit organizations, he said, are great examples of this. It is important for such organizations to draw in the audience by presenting facts in an interesting manner and what better way to do this than by telling stories. Of course, Mr. Goodman did not mean that all other facts should be swept under the carpet but rather stories should be used to draw the audience in before they are swamped with facts and other relevant information.
Mr. Goodman, said that the reason story-telling (or narratives) is such a powerful tool is because of the following four factors. History; (a way of organizing things in our mind), Identity- stories are ways to describe ourselves or a way to remind ourselves who we are; Culture-every society has certain stories which are passed down from one generation to the next and eventually become part of the political, cultural, and socio-economic structures of the place. Finally, memory because facts are easier to remember if they are presented as part of a narrative rather than being randomly thrown at us.
Having established that stories are effective Mr. Goodman proceeded to tell us what makes an effective story-teller. Good stories have a structure- a beginning, a middle and an end; a protagonist we can identify with, a goal which the protagonist sets out to achieve and conflicts or barriers to the attainment of the goal. Overcoming the barrier leads to the resolution and makes the story interesting. Another important thing according to Mr. Goodman is to reduce verbiage, use simple direct language which the audience will understand.
Mr. Goodman concluded by saying that non-profit organizations should try to generate interest and engage people by putting forward interesting success stories instead of flat, abstract statements of their goal and mission. Non-profit organizations should attempt to build a lasting story-telling culture.

by Tahseen Alam

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