storytelling

Recently, we attended a charitable event for which we were one of the sponsors. The event’s proceeds benefit three nonprofits with outstanding services for children. Before the keynote speaker, a representative from each organization spoke about her group’s mission and services.

All three presented an articulate overview, but two stood out by doing more. They both told a compelling story to make the benefits of their organization come alive. Through poignant narratives, they enabled the audience to visualize in a personal and emotional way the impact their donations would have.

The power of storytelling is well-known and regularly cited, yet presenters often forget to employ this proven communication tool. These two presentations are a good reminder to use stories whenever we can to help illuminate not just what we do, but the impact it has –– how it affects people’s lives.

At the event, one speaker shared a client’s inventive travel story that used a dream trip to Italy as an analogy for parents planning for the birth of a child. Joyously anticipating the journey, they learn snippets of the language, devour travel books, make reservations, and become more and more excited hearing about their friends’ experience.

At last, they’re on the plane and can’t wait to arrive. But when they land, they hear an announcement, “Welcome to Holland.” Parenthood is not what they expected: Their child has a disability. Holland is where they’ve landed and must stay; yet, when they look around, they find it has windmills and tulips and Rembrandts …

The unrealized dream of Italy is a disappointment, but it doesn’t stop the travelers from appreciating all the good things about Holland: The speaker’s organization has helped them navigate their unexpected destination by providing the support they and their child need to overcome the difficulties and focus on the positives.

The other speaker gave the audience an affecting picture of what her hospice care organization means to patients and their families through the story of one terminally ill child. We could envision the boy’s daily struggle with a painful, exhausting disease, the care team’s use of video games and other distractions to ease his suffering, their constant concern for his comfort and for giving the family the support they need –– with donor contributions making it all possible in the comforting surroundings of home.

As these examples show, stories move people as well as educate them. Effective storytelling stirs your audience’s emotions by presenting the vivid snapshot they need to personally envision the problem, the way you solve it and the positive results. It’s a powerful way to make your organization and message stick in people’s memory.

How has your organization used stories? Please share your favorite examples.