A storyteller on storytelling

National Storytelling Week might be over, but were not closing the book on it just yet. Nick Hennessey is an academic, performer and professional storyteller (not to mention a star of our recent storytelling event). We asked him some questions about what stories can do for business, and here’s what he told us.

What is it about telling stories that makes it such an effective way to communicate?


Storytelling isn’t voodoo, and it isn’t rocket science. It’s simple and natural. It’s what we do all of the time, because a story is just a coherent ordering of information. And because there’s so much information flung at us these days, we crave them. They make an ‘us’ out of ‘it’. They make us feel at home.

What can businesses learn about how to talk to their customers (and their own people) from the way we respond to stories?


Authenticity is the greatest challenge to any business. To be honest and open. To be human. This is a challenge because a lot of businesses spend their time trying not to be human, and so when they talk they sound mechanical and lifeless. For communication to be authentic there has to be respect and trust between speaker and listener. Honesty is the key.

Are there any companies you’ve seen doing it really well?


I’m not sure I’m immersed enough in brands to comment. And anyway, the stories that interest me the most are beneath the polished, public surface; the stories of everyday lives being lived. I find them to be the most extraordinary. If a company can communicate that, then I’m hooked.

If you could give one bit of storytelling advice to businesses, what would it be?


Don’t be afraid to show your humanity. In the battle between the humans and the machines, the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against us, but our flaws are our greatest strengths. What are the stories in your organisation? Not the ones you wish for – the ones you make up – but the real ones. They are the ones we want to hear, they are the ones we trust.

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