(Thomas McHenry is the President of McHenry Creative Services. His Irish heritage has ensured Tom is a lifelong teller of stories)

“Once upon a time…”

“Did you hear the one about…? “

“Have I ever told you..?”

Stories, everyone loves stories. We all grew up with them: bedtime stories from our parents, stories at the knee of our grandparents, stories around the sandbox, the campfire and over the back fence. We love them because the “story” is entertaining or dramatic and holds our interest. The stories help us remember the details, so we too can repeat them.  

Back in the day, Sergeant Joe Friday (Jack Webb or Dan Ackroyd – take your pick) of Dragnet fame was famous for saying; “Just the facts, Ma’am.”  My schoolteachers and subsequent business presentations I attended over the years followed Sargent Friday’s mantra. Each lesson, each presentation had the same results with a delivery style of “just the facts”. Honestly, most of the messages rarely were retained.  

Stories are remembered and passed from generation to generation. As kids my dad told us stories of his youth as a Mummer (it’s a Philadelphia thing) and that he was a wedding crasher – and that was decades before Owen Wilson. In turn, I have passed these memories onto my children. The story-telling tradition blossomed with recorded audio, movies, television, the internet, and social media. From cave hieroglyphics to posts and tweets, the “story” is still shared and remembered.

In a Dragnet-style investigation, researchers such as cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner uncovered the idea that stories can be up to 22 times more memorable than just facts. Now, that multiplier may be a bit exaggerated, but the power of stories communicated to an audience is well documented. Drexel and Princeton University research reveals that not only does storytelling light up more areas of the brain, the storyteller’s and the listeners’ brain waves become aligned.  “Storytelling allows the learn-er to paint a picture in their head, which creates a reality and reinforces the meaning while engaging their emotions in crafting memorable, persuasive messages,” according to the research. *(Or do you have someone specific here?) 

Have to give a presentation, develop a video or, well, need to post a post? Don’t be like Joe [Friday]. Be memorable. Tell a STORY. Hold onto your audience. Keep them invested. Ensure they tell your story in the break-room later that week or take home key moments to the next family dinner.  “Did I tell you about the presentation…”