Bill Harley: “Let me tell you a little story. . . “

Watch this 13-min video, and you may never want to get up in front of an audience again without uttering, at some point, the seven magic words in the title.    Why?   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.”

“It has a power nothing else has.”

Most advice on storytelling comes from communication consultants, not actual storytellers.    So here is a master storyteller, Bill Harley — our family’s all-time favorite — talking about his life’s work and why storytelling is essential to understanding and remembering.

 “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

So sit back, relax, play the video and see for yourself.


Update 5-15-12:    Harley notes that a storyteller first has to “choose what story to tell, judging from the audience,” then has to “tell it in a way the audience can hear.”

To stimulate alternative ways of thinking about climate narratives, ClimateBites has compiled 23 (and counting!) different ways to tell the climate story.”   For practical tips on becoming a better storyteller,  check out Andy Goodman’s work,  at “Numbers Numb, Jargon Jars.  Tell a Story!”

Also see marine-biologist-turned-filmaker Randy Olson’s Better Science Films Through Storytelling, his book, Don’t Be Such a Scientist, and a recent lecture titled “Storyomics:  Proof that Scientists Evolved from Humans”

More practical resources for improving storytelling are listed at Climate Access’ Storytelling Resources.

Other perspectives on why stories are the key to effective communication can be found in Drew Westin’s “We Understand the World Through Stories”  and the storytelling chapter in the Heath Brother’s Made to Stick:  Why Some Ideas Die and Others Survive.

7 thoughts on “Bill Harley: “Let me tell you a little story. . . “

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