The strong focus on telling personal stories at Berkeley’s StoryCenter opens up the door to some interesting ideas around how to use storytelling in a business setting.

In May 2019 I headed off to Berkeley, California; I was taking part in a workshop to create a digital story. I loved the immersive and creative aspects of the course and am now using some of the learning in business storytelling seminars and workshops here in Scotland.

For me the trip to the States provided an unusual opportunity to focus on some personal storytelling as well as learn new skills around how to help other people share their story. Suddenly I was being given permission – in fact a clear brief – to tell a story that was mine – something that I felt strongly about, something where I could “own the emotion”.

BerkeleyA lot of my everyday work is about telling other people’s stories, so it felt like a strange mixture of freedom and fear to suddenly be delving into my own life for a story to share – it’s simply not what I normally do. Exploring how to tell more personal stories has definitely helped me to understand how to use emotion in a story, whether mine or someone else’s.

I’m very excited about what happens when you start to connect up the StoryCenter’s ideas about personal storytelling with using storytelling in a leadership setting. I’ve always tended to focus on the purpose of the story, using an understanding of the intended audience to set the tone.

Whether the story is digital or presented in the more traditional business format of spoken presentation or a written piece, I think the StoryCenter’s principles provide a neat and tidy route in – enough technique to get people started without overburdening them with theory.

Here I’ve chose some short excepts from Digital Storytelling – Capturing Lives, Creating Community by Joe Lambert to introduce the seven steps on the storytelling journey. For more, you can visit StoryCenter or get stuck into your own copy of the book.

The StoryCenter’s 7 Steps to Digital Storytelling

Step 1: Owning your insights

We want to help storytellers find and clarify what their stories are about. We often start with the question: “What’s the story you want to tell?” and then as a follow-up, “What do you think your story means?” We want to hear not just what the story is about in the obvious sense: “It’s about my mom, my vacation, my first real job…” But what it’s really about: the storyteller, as the person who lived through the story. And what it’s about between the lines… We also listen for the answers to these three questions: What makes it your version of the story? How does this story show who you are? And how does this story show why you are who you are?

Step 2: Owning your emotions

As we help storytellers find and clarify what their stories are about and ask them to consider the meaning contained within their stories, we also want to help them become aware of the emotional resonance of their story. By identifying the emotions in the story, they can then decide which emotions they would like to include in their story and how they would like to convey them to their audience. To help storytellers identify the emotions in their story, we ask a series of questions regarding their process: “As you shared your story, or story idea, what emotions did you experience? Can you identify at what points in sharing your story you felt certain emotions?

Step 3: Finding the moment

Finding and clarifying the insight and emotions of the story can be the most challenging and rewarding part of the storytelling process. As the storyteller becomes clear about the meaning of their story, we want to help them tell their story as a story by identifying a single moment that they can use to illustrate their insight. To help storytellers find this moment, we ask a series of questions: “What was the moment when things changed? Were you aware of it at the time? If not, what was the moment you became aware that things had changed? Is there more than one possible moment to choose from? If so, do they convey different meanings? Which most accurately conveys the meaning in your story? Can you describe the moment in detail?” Once this moment of change is identified, we help storytellers determine how it will be used to shape the story.

Step 4: Seeing your story

Finding the moment of change in your story and describing it within a scene is the starting point to telling the story as a story. However, because we help storytellers share their stories in the form of a digital story, we also want to look at how the use of visuals and sound bring things to life for the audience.

Step 5: Hearing your story

The recorded voice of the storyteller telling their story is what makes what we call a “digital story” a digital story—not a music video or narrated slideshow. By this point in the process, the emotional tone of the story has been identified, and sound is one of the best ways to convey that tone—through the way the voice-over is performed, the words that are spoken, and the ambient sound and music that work with the narrative.

Step 6. Assembling your story

At this point in the process you have found and clarified what your story is about and how it sits with you today. You have also established the overall tone you want to convey. You’ve identified a moment of change and begun making choices about how to use visuals and sound to bring the story and scenes to life for your audience. Now you are ready to assemble your story by spreading out your notes and images and composing your script and storyboard.

Step 7: Sharing your story

The story and the insight it conveys may have evolved throughout the process. Therefore, it is important to take time now to revisit the context in which the story was initially described in order to determine the relevant information to include when the story is being shared. To help storytellers do this, we ask: “Who is your audience? What was your purpose in creating the story? Has the purpose shifted during the process of creating the piece? In what presentation will your digital story be viewed? And what life will the story have after it’s completed?”

Find out more about Business storytelling courses in Scotland.