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Making an impact - storytelling with style

Our brains are hardwired to process and react to stories, so you have a captive audience as soon as your story starts to unfold. But how long you can keep someone’s attention and how much information they choose to retain depends entirely on the strength of the storyteller’s delivery.  

Identifying which type of storyteller you or your leader are is the first step to building your storytelling prowess.

So, to round out National Storytelling Week, here are four typical storytelling types and five people to inspire the storyteller within:

Reporters – the style most leaders feel comfortable with. They deliver the story factually and simply, with little to no personal emotion. They are comfortable in the domain of facts, figures and data. This style feels comfortable to them. Though information will have been conveyed, they won’t forge a deep connection and they won’t drive a deep understanding.

Avoiders talk in the third person, don’t take real ownership of the message and don’t typically hold eye contact. They forge little to no emotional connection with their audience as a result.

Jokers are high on engagement but low on purpose. They spark laughter and create positive sentiment, but the audience aren’t always clear on message or direction and they can often seem disorganised.

Change makers - the storytellers with a tale so powerful and a delivery style so potent that they move mountains and spark movements. They use tension to grip an audience and connect the message with stories of adversity and triumph and personal experience.

The storytellers that really succeed inside organisations are those that understand their audience . They get what will entice them, they make them feel like part of the story and draw them in. They keep it real and inspire belief. And they share the good, the bad, and the ugly to connect and create community.

If you need some inspiration and want to hone your storytelling craft, here are five great Change Makers in action:

George the Poet

George Mpanga is an incredible British spoken-word artist and activist. His podcast, Have You Heard George's podcast?, is a brilliant example of fresh storytelling and should be added to your must-listen list immediately.

Here's an except from chapter 2 where George recites his poem "Gangland" with the BBC Concert Orchestra.


Malala Yousafzai - UN Speech

“I speak not for myself, but for all girls and boys. I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights:Their right to live in peace.”


Barack Obama - the Commencement Address at Howard University

“Don't try to shut folks out, don't try to shut them down, no matter how much you might disagree with them. There's been a trend around the country of trying to get colleges to disinvite speakers with a different point of view or disrupt a politician's rally. Don't do that—no matter how ridiculous or offensive you might find the things that come out of their mouths.” 


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - We should all be feminists

“The problem with gender, is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognising how we are.” 


Malcolm Gladwell - Choice, happiness and spaghetti sauce

“In embracing the diversity of human beings, we will find a surer way to true happiness.” 


Gladwell uses a variety of different storytelling styles in this now infamous Ted Talk. He uses a story about another person to connect the audience with his message and theories with humour, compassion and his inimitable style.

If you need some help supercharging your storytelling, get in touch at hello@unitedcultureco.com.

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash