The World Needs More Storytellers

As a public speaker, I have a dream of creating my own TED Talk. Spending eighteen minutes on stage expressing a passionate idea I believe can change the world. (Of course, my concept would center around rebooting the way we teach, talk, and share information about money and retirement.) Yep, it is on my bucket list. Last night, I added another dream on to the list: become a better storyteller. (And maybe, one day, be a speaker at The Moth.)

Last night, we had the opportunity to attend a showing of The Moth, an organization dedicated to the art of storytelling; it was an amazing night. The stories were compelling and interesting and the storytellers themselves were absolute pros. They had ten minutes to create a connection with the audience and they did. We laughed, cried, applauded like crazy and during the intermission we yapped up a storm about what we’d heard and, more importantly, what we’d felt.

I have a few plans for 2014; I’m making it a priority to learn more about the art of storytelling and to help the retirement planning world learn how to tell stories. We spend so much time in our heads, crunching numbers, constructing portfolios, and managing regulations. By the time we present our ideas, we tend to forget that there are human beings at the other end of our PowerPoint presentations, craving connection only a personal story can provide. And connection, emotional connection, can redirect people’s perspectives much quicker than reason.

Whether a person is being told “just the facts, ma’am” or a beautifully woven, image-rich tale, the brain’s language receptors are activated. However, in the instance of storytelling, every part of the brain is activated that would be in use if the person were actually participating in or experiencing the event themselves.

For over 27,000 years, since the first cave paintings were discovered, telling stories has been one of our most fundamental communication methods. Obviously, this method of communicating had an evolutionary benefit, or we would have stopped about 26,500 years ago! Storytelling is an organic reflection of how we reflexively process all our thoughts. (I know I mentally narrate my entire day, as I go along!) When we artfully hone this skill, we can express our concepts, ideas, and dreams with clarity; that is how true connection transpires.