JR: I’m a big fan of narratives and their rhetorical cousins, extended metaphors, as I discuss in my forthcoming book. This video is a must-see for those who want to be better communicators.
by Tom Smerling, via ClimateBites
After watching this TEDx clip, you may never want to stand before an audience again without pausing, at least once, to utter these seven magic words:
“Let me tell you a little story.”
But most advice about the importance of narrative comes from psychologists and communication consultants, not storytellers. So here is a master storyteller, Bill Harley, talking about his life’s work, and sharing what he’s learned about why storytelling is so central to human understanding.
A small sample:
It has a power nothing else has. . .
I’m not talking just about literature and English. I’m talking about history and astrophysics and biochemistry and law and mathematics.
All of those things are best explained through story. Because “story” is how we are reminded, and how we remember. If we want it to be memorable, it must be a story. . .
We are not built to memorize lists, or unrelated facts. We are built to remember narrative.So try this the next time you are giving a lecture or a talk or standing in front of a bunch of people: Stop in the middle of your offering of facts or your closely-reasoned argument, and say “Let me tell you a little story.”
And watch what happens. You see the faces relax, you see people reseat themselves in their chairs, and get ready. . . to hear . . . a story.
Harley’s points apply not only to public speeches, but to all climate communication, from written articles to interviews, blogs, and even dinner-table conversation.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy Bill Harley’s anecdotes.
If you want to look further into the art of climate storytelling, below are some suggestions for where to start:
- There are two ways of thinking about climate storytelling
1) the overall narrative (aka storyline) you select to describe the problem and its solutions to a given audience. There are many different approaches; ClimateBites has compiled 23 alternative ways to tell the climate story.
2) short, personal anecdotes used to draw the audience in and make your message stick. For tips on becoming a better storyteller for any public cause, check out Andy Goodman’s work linked at “Numbers Numb, Jargon Jars. And Nobody Ever Marched on Washington Because of a Pie Chart.“
- As role model for climate storytelling, nobody beats Dr. Richard Alley, host of PBS’s Earth: the Operators’ Manual. That entire series is filled with great stories, and the book includes even more. In this short clip Alley draws on his own life events to illustrate how ‘skeptics’ cherry-pick data, ala “The Escalator.”
– Tom Smerling is a climate communicator who formerly worked in the Special Projects Office of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. This piece was originally published at ClimateBites and was reprinted with permission.