Once upon a time in the Bushveld of South Africa lived a dragon who thought he was a springbuck. He ate grass like the buck, hid from the midday sun under the trees like a buck and ran from the lions like a buck.
One day another dragon flew overhead and saw this dragon behaving like a buck. He swooped down, picked up the younger dragon and flew with him into the clouds.
“Fly!” her bellowed as he dropped the young dragon.
“No, no, no noooooo!”, shrieked the young one closing his eyes as the ground came up to meet him. But before he hit the earth, the older dragon scooped him up again.
“Fly!” he bellowed as he let go a second time, then a third and a fourth. On and on the same routine until the young dragon could not stand it anymore. Angrily he began to protest and struggle, but still it went on. The young dragon became angrier and more indignant still, until finally he had had enough. As he was hurtling towards the earth one more time he opened his mouth and roared: “I am not a DRA-GON!!!”. As he did so, flames burst from his mouth, his wings shot open and he caught an up draft narrowly escaping being smashed to the ground.
When he looked up to see where the other dragon had gone, he was just in time to see him disappear into the distance. He had to work like mad to catch up. Now he lives with the last remaining pack of dragons in the Drakensberg. (Adapted from an old Chinese tale “The Roar of Awakening”)
Which of the two dragons do you identify with most? The younger one, or the older one?
Why? Take a moment to write your answer down.
I have just demonstrated two way of using a story as part of a talk or workshop:
1. Tell a story
2. Let the people in the room reflect on the story in a way that connects their own life stories to the story in the room.
The most effective way is to let them reflect on it by themselves for a moment, then share in pairs and then feed back to the larger group on a voluntary basis.
The first works because stories can address all four the requirements of the AGAES model. This model explains the four elements that are needed for the brain to remember messages: Attention, Generation, Emotion and Spacing.
Attention: Because of their visual nature and ability to make abrstract concepts concrete and simplify highly complex ideas, stories capture attention. A well tole story also keeps it. This is especially true if the audience finds personal relevance in the story for their own experience.
Generation: Stories help the brain to make numerous new connections because it involves pictures, symbols and emotions and connecting all these to abstract concepts.
Emotion: A good story allows the audience to empathise on one level or another inviting them to link emotion to the message. This signals to the brain that the message is important based on the intensity of the emotion.
Spacing: If the message can be linked to clear symbols in the story, it means that it will be recalled in the future every time the audience sees something that reminds them of the message. The recalling after a space of time entrenches the message further.
If you then add the second kind of story-strategy i.e. letting people connect their own story link with the story in the room, you now double the effect of all four aspects of the AGES model. The sense that the story is personally relevant captivates more Attention. Sharing this with someone else and hearing their story Generates more connections in the brain. The social interaction itself signifies importance to the brain, because relating your story to others’ story satisfies the brains deep need for relating and belonging. This increases the Emotional response and adds another Spacing opportunity, because you will recall the story and its message every time you meet this person.
The third way of using story, however, can increase the effectiveness of your message exponentially. 3. Using story as a design principle for your entire talk or workshop.