I´ve recently been asked who likes stories. The answer is simple: everybody. Literally EVERYBODY. Stories are probably one of the most demographic-proof arts in the world: Everybody – regardless of age, race or gender, cultural or societal background – likes to listen to a good story. And the beauty is: stories work everywhere the same; as it has been proven in Joseph Campbell´s groundbreaking work `the hero with a thousand faces`. No matter if you tell a story to an Inuit fisherman, an Australian construction worker or a hunter from Senegal. All of them will appreciate and understand the same good story.
The American dream is a story
Every nation, religion and culture has their own stories and myths that gives them identity and holds them together. Take the bible, or the Talmud or the Quran. Those books tell one story and one myth after the other. For over 2000 years through parables and stories, the bible has given us a set of guidelines and moral laws, which is deeply embedded in western society.
Or think about the American dream. It was basically a story of hope that lured millions of immigrants to America and made it the most powerful economy in the world.
Multinationals are like ancient tribes
So why are stories so important in today´s globalized business world? The reason is simple. Nowadays, fifty of the one hundred biggest economies are multinational corporations. Though there are many differences in culture, language and backgrounds among employees around the world, stories and myths of the corporation give them identity and hold them together.
In many ways the modern corporation resembles ancient tribes: the stories that circulate in and around the organization paint a picture of the company´s culture and values, heroes and enemies, good points and bad, both towards employees and customers. By sharing stories we define who we are and what we stand for.
Stories are memorable. It is proven that we are 20 times more likely to remember a fact if it is wrapped around a story.
Storytelling drives retention rate
A recent study at London business school demonstrated that information retention levels differ depending on how you deliver your facts: with a bit of a storytelling, you can increase the retention rate to around 25-30 percent. The biggest impact comes from storytelling as a standalone communication medium though. According to this study, storytelling can drive the retention rate of your audience up to as much as 65-70 percent.
At Stanford they made a similar experiment: A group of students gave presentations and afterwards had to vote about the quality of the presentations. After some time passed students were asked what presentations they remembered. Interestingly the speeches that got most remembered were not the highest voted ones but those ones that used storytelling elements.
Another example: Since they introduced history books in storytelling form in the US it has been proven that students can contain more historical facts than before.
We remember what we feel
So there is a lot of evidence that stories are more memorable than facts alone. Why is that? Because we remember what we feel.
Studies of neuroscientists show that different parts of the brain are activated when strong emotions are associated with a memory. This again causes both the memory itself and the related emotions to be retained longer and in greater detail than other memories.
Think about. Looking back at your child hood or teenage years, you are more likely to remember events where emotions were high (for the better or worse).
Stories convey those emotions effectively and bring energy to our communication. Scientists found out that our brain is more activated when listening to stories than rational presentations… why? … because stories evoke images and emotions in our heads.
Deliver facts in story form
Next time you want to deliver facts consider doing it in story form. People will be more likely to remember.