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Whenever I am asked to share stories of my work as a filmmaker, I see it as an opportunity to encourage and inspire others to explore their potential as storytellers. Like many other disciplines that are challenging, I believe that storytelling - and more specifically making videos - is a skill that we all can cultivate and be passionate about. I believe that those who do persevere and become better video storytellers will improve their overall communication as well.
With the surge in Mobile Internet technology the importance of video has increased dramatically and its prevalence in modern communication is likely to continue. This article is about film making as a discipline and a language that can be embraced within corporate communication. I would like to encourage corporate communicators and leaders to embrace the use of video as a tool. Here are my 5 reasons why ‘stories’ - particularly in the form of video - are more engaging than ‘normal communication’.
Reason 1: In a story, the audience comes first
Filmmaking is a language and just as a storyteller sitting around a campfire can tell his story in any language, he is well advised to choose a language that his audience can understand and respond to. Today a huge range of new and affordable digital technology is available for crafting video content. However many make the mistake of thinking the technology itself is the language when it’s not. Technology makes things easier but it can also get in the way of honest story telling by making us lazy. The mark of a successful story typically likes in using creativity, humor, personality, originality and story craft to ensure that your content engages your audience. There is a reason why a favorite movie is never forgotten and many of those same skills can be used in corporate communication videos. In creating engaging content, making the audience priority No1 is key.
Reason 2: A storyteller is not afraid to leave data out
One thing a movie can do better than anything else, is to compress time. Today’s movie watching audience is incredibly adept at filling in the gaps in the story. This rate of ‘media literacy’ is something that grows with a medium that is very much alive with change. By allowing an audience to use their imagination and fill in select gaps, a storyteller activates the audience’s primal brain and retains their attention. By contrast a ‘normal’ corporate presentation, often has too much information, leaving the audience feeling bored, overwhelmed and wanting it to be over. Predictability is the enemy of a good story. Most of us have all seen presentations, filled with information overload that typically cause us to ‘switch off’. A good storyteller knows that the audience has a natural filtering mechanism and will focus selectively on what is most relevant to them personally.
Reason 3: A storyteller is not afraid to keep emotional story points in
Successful storytellers create from a place of joy. Their goal is to create something that will surprise, move, delight and entertain the audience even if this means applying poetic license. They approach the task with a clear vision of how the finished story is intended to affect the audience and this becomes their core mission. Typically, if a component to the story is likely to move the audience emotionally, it stays in the story and is emphasized. Anything likely to bore the audience is almost certainly left out or reframed to maximize its emotional relevance to the audience and the story.
Reason 4: A storyteller is prepared to take risks
In one of Brene’ Brown’s amazing TED talks she says “Perhaps stories are just data with soul”. Brene Brown also makes a convincing case for telling a good story by being vulnerable. Good storytellers are prepared to risk looking foolish as they experiment and create something original. When we take that risk of doing something a little differently, we open ourselves up to the potential of connecting with an audience on a profound and deeper level. In a corporate environment, this might mean starting with a small, low risk, pilot project. An example might be an internal contest encouraging employees to make ‘welcome videos’ intended for use on social media in order to welcome new hires at the company. Once proven beneficial, this new style of ‘user generated’ content could be more easily applied in other ways.
Reason 5: A storyteller does things differently and is always evolving
Leaders tasked with using video as an experiment should keep in mind that getting people to change their behavior patterns is typically a challenge. People are reluctant to “fix it if it’s not broken” especially when they might have a fear of being too visible or outside of the acceptable norm, sometimes referred to as tall poppy syndrome. If successful, a new style of communication should be incentivized. Encouraging storytelling, especially with video could boost morale and have a favorable impact on leadership and team development.
During my work as a filmmaker, I learned from personal experience the power that film has as a medium, and it’s considerable ability to move an audience emotionally. It took me years to gather detailed insights and experience into the complexities and nuances of this medium – but by applying basic principles and techniques it is possible for even a first timer to create a piece of video content that resonates with an audience and has the potential to influence people. Keeping it simple, and focusing on the audience are great guiding principles to keep in mind when creating content!
“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”
- George Bernard Shaw.