The Four Truths of the Storyteller

“The Four Truths of the Storyteller” is an article by Peter Guber that appeared in the Harvard Business Review. Every businessperson should read it.

Guber is a successful businessman who founded the movie company Mandalay Entertainment. That company has produced some big Hollywood movies starring actors such as Al Pacino, Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp.

In the article, Guber explains how people in the business world can use Hollywood storytelling techniques in the corporate boardroom. And storytelling is important.

Stories have been around for centuries. They are one of the human traits that are truly universal across cultures and throughout history. Stories engage an audience; stories add meaning. Indeed, our brains are wired for stories.

Scientists have studied how the brain reacts to stories using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). When people hear stories, different parts of the brain are activated: the amygdala, which is linked to emotion; Wernicke’s area which is linked to language processing; the prefrontal cortex which is linked to memory. In short, our brains light up when we hear a story.

Audiences generally respond more positively to stories than they do to a series of facts. And they remember more. If you give one audience a bunch of facts, and you give another audience the same facts but packaged in a story, the second audience will generally remember more of the facts because they can easily remember the story.

But you have to tell the right story

According to Guber, in order for a story to make an impact, it must contain the following four truths:

Truth to the Teller: The speaker must feel something for the story. It has to be meaningful for them. That’s why personal stories are so powerful; they are a part of who we are. It doesn’t mean that you can never tell a story about a third person, but you have to feel something for that story.

Truth to the Audience: There must be something in the story that is relevant for the audience: a lesson; an insight; motivation; whatever. Just answer this question: Why should the audience care about my story? If you cannot come up with an answer, find a different story.

Truth to the Moment: This means that you tell the right story, to the right audience, at the right time, and in the right amount of detail. It is very much related to Aristotle’s Kairos. Speakers often include too many details when telling a story. But stories don’t have to be long. They can be 20-30 seconds and still make an impact. You need to be able to adapt your stories to any situation. So, if you have a good story that takes five minutes to tell, that’s fine. Try telling it in two minutes; in one minute; in 30 seconds. Telling good stories takes practice.

Truth to the Mission: The story should inspire the audience and move them closer to the goal that the speaker has set for them. It should help them strive for a worthy objective.

Keep each of these truths in mind whenever adding a story to your presentations. If you satisfy all four, you’ve got a great story.

Here is the link to the article, “The Four Truths of the Storyteller”.

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