How Storytelling Can Move Your Audience To Tears

I begin the story. It's real. It's poignant. It’s heartbreaking and it's hopeful. A hush has fallen on the room. People are wide-awake. They're leaning-in. And generously listening. Smart phones have momentarily been forgotten.

Written By : on November 18, 2015

I begin the story. It’s real. It’s poignant. It’s heartbreaking and it’s hopeful. A hush has fallen on the room. People are wide-awake. They’re leaning-in. And generously listening. Smart phones have momentarily been forgotten.

Have you ever said yes while drowning a voice inside you saying – “hell no?”   It’s a few years back on a rainy November day.  But I remember it clearly. I was consulting with a corporate pharmaceutical company.

“Could you present those three slides, Claire?”

I heard myself utter the words, “yes, sure!”

My gut clenched. No, I don’t want to present these three slides. Why? I don’t believe in them. They’re in the deck to tick a box – to keep someone sweet.  But they’re adding no value.

The following day I’m poised before the demon slides. Among the audience are several C-Suite folk and other upper echelons.

With a tentative voice and uncomfortable body language, I’m only half-present.  A distracting inner voice squeals, “what a load of nonsense.”

That day, the audience witnessed an off-beam presenter.  With tense muscles, tightened throat and awkward body language, I galloped through the slides.  They were unmoved.  Those who were awake at the beginning were surely asleep by the end.

Relieved, I sat back down and made myself a promise.  I called time on tranquilising slides.  And I vowed to be true to myself in future talks.

Soon the next opportunity rolled around. I was invited to join a panel on stage. “Claire, can you come up with a Q & A that you’d like me to ask you?”

Now was my chance to make things up to myself. “Yes, sure.” I said.

Days later, I wrote the question and pinged it to the conference host, on email.

The answer was a story.  Even then, before The Story Mill, I was passionate about storytelling in business.

It was a tale of a woman’s struggle with the health problem we were working on.  Much as I’m a fan of personal storytelling, it wasn’t my story.  So I respectfully asked her permission.

The day of the on-stage panel dawns.  I’m sitting comfortably with the other panelists.

It’s my turn. The host asks, “Claire can tell us why new treatments matter for people with this condition?”

Today I believe in my message. I’m reminding people why we come to work every day.

I begin the story.  It’s real.  It’s poignant. It’s heartbreaking and it’s hopeful.  A hush has fallen on the room. People are wide-awake.  They’re leaning-in.  And generously listening.  Smart phones have momentarily been forgotten.

Authenticity feels great. I’m telling of a human experience with its emotional ups and downs. One woman’s journey speaks for so many.  Storytelling is deeply personal and yet universal.

What happens next is unexpected.  And incredible.

I’m bringing the story to an end.  The audience is clapping. Then they’re standing-up. And finally people are cheering. They’re awestruck by the courage and vulnerability of the woman whose tale they’ve witnessed.

The atmosphere is dense with heartfelt compassion. And I’m exhilarated.

Then, it’s time for a break.  People approach me with choked voices.  I’m astounded.

Now, my friends, that is the power of storytelling. It engages and educates people while tugging at their heart strings. And it moves people into inspired action.

Since then, I’ve become immersed in the world of storytelling in business – co-founding The Story Mill Ltd.  Storytelling builds chemistry.  It stirs people in business.  It even moves some to tears.  Because it taps into their values and their compassion.

If you’d like to learn how to move people with storytelling.



Claire Taylor is co-founder of The Story Mill – a business that creates innovative programmes to support organisations to make their brands more human and foster a culture of authenticity and innovation. We run engaging storytelling workshops including: Storytelling in Leadership, Influencing, Branding, Strategy, Culture and Innovation.Claire is a Corporate Storyteller, Coach, Consultant, Trainer and Author of The Tao of Storytelling.

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