Sitting in a dark theater, I'm not sure I had ever been more fully engrossed in a film than I was at that moment. I was fully engaged in the movie and, at the same time, fully aware and intrigued by it's beauty. I knew these characters. Not personally, that is, but I felt like I did. I could more fully identify with them than some people I truly know in real life. "How is that possible", I thought to myself. As the movie, Lincoln, came to an end I knew what was going to happen. The camera panned the scene of a theater. Everyone knows Lincoln dies at the end - he gets shot. I even thought to myself, "I wonder how they'll show the assassination"? And than, out of nowhere, a man ran onto the stage and began yelling that Lincoln had been shot. "Wait", I thought, "this scene is in the wrong theater". The camera paned over an emotionally stunned crowd. My confusion about the scene seemed to resonate similarly with the confusion of the audience in the movie. You expected the panning camera to land on a dying president, but it didn't. It finally found it's rest focused on an emotionally devastated son. The son of President Lincoln, who had just learned of his fathers assassination via that announcement. My stomach dropped as I was hit the emotion of that moment in the story and, at the same time, I smiled just a bit. "Well done, Spielberg", I thought to myself. I knew exactly what was going to happen at the end of that story - I had no idea how it might have felt. He could have told me what happened but instead he curated a moment in which I experienced the familiar ending through the emotions of a character. Now I knew what happened and, on at least some level, knew how it felt.
Story has become a bit of a trend these days. You could Google it and find about 4.5 billion results - which may be a story in itself. Every industry is telling "stories". For years now we've been proclaiming it's value from the mountain tops, with book after book and article after article encouraging people and companies to tell more stories. People should know their story. Business should have a story, and use it's customer stories. Know your employee stories. Share your volunteer stories. Or how about some success stories? Better yet, compile those failure stories - those are authentic!
Now I don't always like to split semantics, but I think this one is important so stick with me just a brief moment. In my opinion the movie, "Lincoln", is one of the greatest movies released in the past few years. It's not because of the cinematography, or the character acting, or the even the music. It's because of how the movie portrayed an incredible story. Lincoln wasn't about story telling, but story experience. The goal wasn't to tell me anything because I already knew the details. The goal was to help me experience the story. That's what made it so incredible - and that's why I could watch it again and again.
I think we all need to take a step back from this idea of "story" and consider what really makes it powerful.
To be effective we can't simply tell stories, we must use story to facilitate experience.
That's the true power of storytelling - it allows us to draw people into an experience that is almost real. Story is about facilitating experience and emotional response, not simply "communicating". We hardly do the concept justice when ask people to "tell" more stories.
Don't tell me another story - curate an experience.