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The Art of Storytelling

The Art of Storytelling

Six tips to improve your firm’s message

From Orlando Business Journal – by Cindy Barth, Editor, Friday, May 6, 2011

Bob Allen loves a good story. In fact, he loves storytelling so much that it’s even part of his official title at IDEAS, an Orlando-based company he founded that helps its clients tell their own stories via multiple platforms ranging from digital media to film.

The company’s principal executive and chief storytelling officer said his love of stories started back when he was a child, growing up in a family of “fiddle players and yarn spinners.”

“I used to fall asleep at night listening to stories,” Allen said. “Storytelling has always been a part of my life, my family — I don’t ever remember a time when someone wasn’t telling some kind of story when we got together.”

Allen learned the art of storytelling from his father and honed it throughout his career with stints in radio, television, live entertainment and his work at Disneyland in California.

He relocated to Florida to be part of the Imagineering team at Epcot, where he worked as a writer and producer. In the mid-1980s, he got to work as a team member on the “story” for what became Disney-MGM Studios.

“Storytelling is the root product of business,” Allen said. “All you need to know is who the audience is and what’s the best story to tell them.”

Here are Allen’s six parts to any good ­storytelling effort:

1. You must create characters that connect to the audience. “If you don’t give your audience anything or anyone to care about, why would they listen to your story?” Allen asks. “Give people a reason to connect to what you want them to learn or understand.”

2. Choose the right voice for your story. “Anytime you tell a story, you must do it in a way that people can relate to. If you don’t have any emotion in what you’re telling, you shouldn’t be surprised that no one cares about your story.”

3. Use your story’s plot to create structure. “If you were writing a book, but decided to do it in some kind of stream-of-consciousness way, how could anyone follow the story you’re trying to tell?” Allen asks. “The plot gives you the container in which to build a story. Don’t forget that stories begin with the end and with a clear understanding of what outcome will be measured.”

4. Include conflict and resolution. “This is where you really have the opportunity to grab your audience. Conflict and resolution give people a reason to care.”

5. Use emotion to drive home your message. “If you’re not excited about your story, why would anyone else be? Likewise, if you can tap into other emotions when it helps tell your story, you should as well. Think of the holiday commercials you sometimes see, and how it creates that warm feeling about family and people you love,” Allen said.

6. Create a sense of place. “Stories make pictures in people’s minds. Make sure your audience is getting the right picture with whatever medium you use to tell your story.”

The bottom line, said Allen: “Everybody has a story to tell. If you don’t tell your story, someone else will.”

cbarth@bizjournals.com (407) 241-2889

The original article can be found on the Orlando Business Journal website: http://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/print-edition/2011/05/06/the-art-of-storytelling.html 

John Lux
As COO of IDEAS, John manages the day-to-day operations of the company. He is a category expert in studio production and is responsible for bringing advanced digital media technology to IDEAS.