Memory as Story-teller…changes & endings

brain memoryDaniel Kahneman was talking in his TED talk about the power and the constraints of memory. He concludes probably most of our memories are reconstructed memories rather than the ‘truth’ and he explores what is it that makes things memorable, what is it that about moments that allow us to create or recreate ‘stories’ in our minds that define us and the perceptions other have of us.

I find this discussion endlessly fascinating. The power of the story to influence our own thoughts and behaviours and the power of the story to influence others is a fundamental part of the work I do with my clients when they are designing and delivering powerful, persuasive presentations.

One thing that resonated with me from the TED talk though were the three criteria of what makes a moment memorable and ‘story worthy’. There needs to be change, significant or pivotal occurrences (often with a high emotional content) and an end.

This made me think about how we construct stories for telling to others. Rather than tell a linear list of events or even feelings, craft your story by painting the changes (from the old to the new, familiar to unfamiliar or vice versa, expected to the unexpected for example). Decide and then highlight the pivotal occurrence (when you decided something, when you realised something, when something happened to you or your main character) But most of all know the ending.

And this is where I learned a lot from Daniel’s TED talk. The ending defines the story and how we will remember it…so what was learned from the story, how does it link with future events, what impact does it have….the answers to these questions gives the story meaning, resonance. If you don’t do this – draw meaning from the stories you tell – then you miss an opportunity for people recall your story and the point you were making through it.

As we were discussing at a recent workshop, stories and storytelling are the ultimate weapon of influence when speaking in public – providing we choose, craft and deliver them well and with purpose.

Good luck with your story telling!

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