What Storytelling Is

A recent blog post by a professed storytelling consultant reminded me that, while there’s consensus on the power of story, there still is no agreement on on the essential elements of a narrative to qualify it as a story–and there’s no agreed-upon definition for storytelling, either. It’s important to call attention to the need for a generally understood definition for both words, not only for clarity and accuracy, but also because the English language has no other word but story to denote any message–and many messages clearly are not stories!

When I was under contract to the International Storytelling Center several years ago, a colleague and I created a signature organizational story training program, faculty guides and other support materials. In collaboration with the founder of the ISC, Jimmy Neil Smith, over a period of several weeks we deliberately chose each of the following words before reaching agreement on the following definition:

“Storytelling is a process of purposeful communication that effectively uses stories to successfully engage the receiver.”

I have since developed the 7 Secrets of Story, a central element of my Corporate Storytelling workshop that’s a valuable segment of the training. To learn what those secrets are, schedule a workshop for your organization or work team.  You’ll also learn how and why stories work; how to power up your own communications by identifying stories for specific purposes; and how to use tools for structuring your stories.

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