The Power of Story in Video

As an educator and trainer, I’ve delivered presentations to hundreds of audiences over the years. And there’s one unmistakable theme that appears to be consistent with audiences everywhere. Regardless of how early in the morning it is, or how tired an audience might be after lunch, once a story is shared, every eye turns toward the stage and every ear perks up.

What is it about stories that make them so compelling? So powerful?

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, stories are everywhere. Ironically, stories have been with us as long as there have been human beings to share them. From pre-historic drawings on cave dwellings depicting stories of the hunt to gripping tales shared in oral cultures to multimedia stories shared through today’s amazing digital technology.

As neuroscientists and the learning sciences remind us, our brains are naturally wired for stories. When a colleague, peer, or friend tells a story, our attention is immediately riveted. Our engagement increases and our awareness becomes focused.


Quite simply, we want to know what’s going to happen next.

Wondering how a story will end is why we turn pages in novels, it’s why we stay hooked on movies, and it’s why we keep listening to speakers share stories as bestselling author and Jack Canfield and others will attest. As listeners, audience members, colleagues, and viewers, we want to know how a story will end. Stories also similate our natural experience in life so seamlessly that the cognitive work feels effortless.

Leveraging the power of story, can also be applied to video presentations. Begin by identifying what the point of your video message is. Is it to persuade? To inform? To teach? What is the central idea you want to leave with viewers? What are the sub-points you are making to support your central idea? Then recall a story of your own or a story you’ve heard that perfectly illustrates the point or claim you’re making to your viewers. With video, of course, stories have to be brief as most viewers prefer video lengths of four minutes or less. However, a story can still be shared succinctly, just ensure the video story is brief and leaves out non-essentials.

For example, President Obama once shared a story of a time when he was attempting to drum up more support for his first national campaign. He later received support from one political individual with the agreement that Obama would make a visit to this person’s hometown. This trip came about much later but required him to travel to a very remote town where only a handful of people attended in the middle of a downpour. To make matters worse, it was an early morning call. Obama went on to say that the people who had gathered there looked just as unhappy to be there as he was. But after shaking hands with everyone and meeting attendees, there was one lady in the back of the room who began to shout “Fired Up?” and the crowd responded back “Fired Up!” Then she yelled “Ready to go?” and the crowd yelled “Ready to Go!” And this continued for awhile until President Obama–who was a Senator at the time–admitted that even he began to feel fired up, and the crowd’s energy began to change as well. They went on to have a great meeting. The point, President Obama went on, was that “one voice can change a room.” And if one voice can change a room, one voice can change a city, a state, a country, and the world. The story’s point that “one voice can change a room” was relevant and fitting, and used to move his own message forward.

So the next time you need to craft a video message, first identify what main point and sub-points you’re trying to make, and then consider your your own stories and experiences to see if there is a fitting story you could share that helps illustrate your message.

Some stories just never get old . . .

What say you?

The Force of “Story” Awakens

When we first watched the original Star Wars movie when it was released in the 70’s, my peers and I were just kids. The tables have since turned and it feels rather nostalgic on the eve of the release of the 7th movie to have our own kids who want to watch the movie now.

Given the hype with the premiere of The Force Awakens this week and its official opening in theatres by the end of this week, the blockbuster Star Wars’ epic reminds us of one powerful element that continues to engage, captivate, and awaken the human spirit–that is, the power of story.

Through film, book, presentation, article, poem, or song–good stories through the ages continue to grip us, focus our attention, immerse us in plot, make us laugh, and make us cry.

The power of story even translates across mediums and genre. Elements of story can even be applied to online video. For example, as you design your shots and scripts, consider how you might share your message with elements of story. As legendary film director Steven Spielberg once said about himself, “I’m a storyteller.” Films and stories like Star Wars are rich with conflict and scenes, action and emotion, heroes and villains, and mounting tension and resolution–all of which capture our hearts again and again. How else could something which began through oral culture still work its magic across media, genres, and generations?

As you work on your online videos, consider incorporating elements of story–appropriate to your content–through some of the following ways:

  • Show different camera angles and contextual shots to establish a sense of place.
  • Set up a problem or challenge to be resolved.
  • Introduce different personalities to us in your videos to grow your cast of “characters.”
  • Include emotional appeal in your scripting and delivery.
  • Show mounting tension as you are attempting to resolve an initial challenge or problem.
  • Briefly walk through the consequences of making incorrect choices in the content about which you’re informing, instructing, or marketing to us.
  • End with a satisfying resolution of the conflict.

If you have your Star Wars ticket already, enjoy the show! Just remember . . . that the art of story and its captivating magic is not just for film. The power of story offers us lessons widely applicable to much more than just a two hour experience in a theatre seat.