Bring storytelling into your events

By Kit Watts

2 mins

How can storytelling can make your events more memorable and impactful?

We’re living at a time when everyone has a story to tell, and when many believe their story is more important, more deserving or more legitimate than the next. As this piece explains, the key to truly feeling heard and acknowledged may lie in each of us honing our listening skills. What is it about story and the structure of a really good story that means so much to people? 

Can you name one culture, existing or ancient, that doesn’t have a legacy of storytelling in some form? From cave paintings and hieroglyphics to oral history traditions, all stories have a shape, a rhythm, even a code that we innately understand and appreciate.

There is meaning in stories. We are, after all, meaning-seeking creatures.

If you have a storytelling or story-creating role in your organisation, heed these tips from award-winning storyteller and documentarian, Sharad Kharé. He is the Founder of Human Biography and we were thrilled when he accepted our invitation to speak at IMEX America 2021.

Sharad has interviewed hundreds of celebrities, presidents, the Dalai Lama, and plenty of people like you and me. He knows a thing or two about the power of good storytelling. Although his tips are primarily about telling good stories on film, these principles apply whatever your medium.

Keeping this brief checklist close to hand will help you develop your storytelling skills in 2022.

What makes a good story?

A good story must satisfy three criteria. These building blocks have no short cuts! Think of them as fundamentals.

Engaging – We, the audience, want our attention to be held. We want to feel captivated

Educational – We want to learn something new or be set on a path of discovery

Entertaining – We want to experience strong emotions, and especially moments of delight

Ask where do I fit into this?

Next, he urges us to think about the part we, the interviewer, plays in the storytelling process. This is another way of saying ‘what do I know, or think I know and what do I want to learn or convey in this story?’ Curiosity is primary. One of Sharad’s mantras for life is “lead with curiosity.”

This goes hand in hand with another of his favourite sayings, “silence is a sound too”.

We shouldn’t be afraid of silence. Much like a good movie or a piece of music, silence has a place. It allows for the processing and integration of emotions and thoughts. It can also create tension, a space to breathe or provide valuable punctuation before a change of pace or a change of question. Practice having the courage to hold the silence and not leap into the void.

Presence is everything

Cultivate presence and focus. Your own centred presence, with no distractions, agenda or motive, holds space for your interviewee to feel safe and for their story to emerge organically. Eliciting a story, especially a highly personal one, demands respect and feeling like you’re meant to be there in the interviewer’s chair is a key element in the dance and rhythm of the story. Your own authority and confidence add an important dimension to this invisible flow.

Think of presence as your superpower and the ultimate source of connection with your subject, which leads beautifully to Sharad’s final and potentially most important tip….

Storytelling is really story-listening

Learning to listen is the greatest gift we all have, says Sharad. From the macro to the micro levels of life, if we all showed up with a 100% commitment to listening, the world would be a much healthier and happier place. Listening intently means we ask better questions. It also means we naturally ask qualifying questions when we know we haven’t fully understood; and intentional listening also attunes our ears to fine details and nuances that are too easily missed in our desire to follow a formula or a script.

Here are just a few of the many who have told him their stories.

If you want more thought-provoking stories like this, sign up for our monthly-ish IMEXfiles and show up at IMEX in Frankfurt from 31 May 2022 when our education programme will deliver more of the same.

Join the discussion on storytelling at IMEX

About the author

Before Kit became an IMEX employee in 2016, she was one of our PR consultants, so has been with us for 20 years.

Kit Watts

Communications Strategist