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Understanding the Science of Business Storytelling

Wednesday 19th July 2023 - GMT

Business storytelling has become a crucial skill for anyone wishing to gain a competitive edge in today’s market.

Businesses are increasingly recognising the importance of storytelling as a strategic tool for effective communication and customer engagement.

Understanding the science of business storytelling can help you to build stronger relationships with your clients, be more persuasive and convincing about your ideas and communicate your brand’s story in an authentic way.

While storytelling is traditionally viewed as a creative art form, there’s a lot of science behind the narrative elements that hook us in as audiences. Let’s take a closer look at exactly why we’re so drawn to stories…

The Power of Neurochemistry

Your brain loves a good story.

That’s because storytelling encourages the release of two chemicals: oxytocin and dopamine. Both of these chemicals can help us to form emotional connections both to people and ideas.

Oxytocin is a chemical that is produced when we are trusted and shown kindness. It encourages us to cooperate with others. Character-driven stories often promote oxytocin synthesis. It promotes bonding, empathy and trust. It’s known as the love hormone, which helps you to build your relationship with your own audience as you build trust.

Dopamine is the chemical that enhances pleasure and reward experiences. It motivates us and gives us satisfaction. We can increase dopamine levels by creating situations of suspense, gripping our audience.

Storytelling stimulates other chemicals, too. Studies show that storytelling can help us to release endorphins (happy hormones) whilst also reducing the negative effects of cortisol and adrenaline.

Audience engagement also goes up when neurochemical effects in the brain are increased, a. Using storytelling for business builds up these neurochemical reactions, meaning audiences are more attentive, your content is more memorable, and you’ll gain much more influence as a result.

Cognitive Processing and Memory

It’s tricky for our brains to process lots of information at once. If we give our audience a simpler path to obtain, store and retrieve information, it helps people to make sense of the world much more easily. Stories take us on that path.

Some estimates suggest that hearing information as a story is 22 times more effective than delivering it as a list or dataset. A study by Kilaru et al. found that narratives allow you to ‘mentally rehearse’ the actions within them, making the information more memorable.

Listening to a story activates the auditory cortex of your brain, as well as your left temporal cortex, which is receptive to language comprehension. It also fires up areas of the brain responsible for emotional reactions, sensory experiences and memory formation.

When you can engage these various areas of the brain in their different cognitive processes through storytelling, information is much easier to remember and recall compared to plain facts or data.

The Benefits of Empathy

Another part of the science of business storytelling is how it relates to the neurons in our brain.

Neurons are nerve cells. In our brain, they allow us to experience empathy and emotionally resonate with the experiences of others. When we hear a story, our mirror neurons simulate the experiences described to us, and we are able to empathise with the feelings around those experiences.

Using storytelling for business encourages your audience to feel that empathy, which helps to drive engagement and makes your arguments more persuasive. People are more likely to relate to the characters and situations being portrayed in a story than if they were given the raw data or facts alone.

The Influence of Narrative Structures

There is no story without conflict and no character development without obstacles. The most gripping stories are the ones in which a character goes on an emotional journey to overcome a challenge in their life.

You may be familiar with classic storytelling structures such as the hero’s journey or the three-act structure that follow this type of narrative framework. However, applying that to business storytelling can be tricky.

Learning how to use a framework, such as our PRO storytelling structure, can help to create anticipation, tension and resolution, which in turn will lead to increased engagement from your audience.

Think about who the characters are in your story. Who’s the hero? Who’s the mentor? Who or what is the villain? What is the conflict facing the hero at the moment? Where does the hero need to get to gain that resolution?

By using a narrative structure framework, you can engage your audience by creating tension and anticipation before leading them to a resolution. The result? Your information, told as a story, is suddenly much more memorable and engaging – and the audience will be much more likely to listen all the way through to the end.

Influence and Decision Making

One of the most important aspects of business storytelling is its ability to persuade and convince listeners.

Rather than throwing data or information at an audience and hoping for the best, good business storytelling takes people on a journey from their challenges to the hope of a better future, showing them how to achieve it.

Focusing on the problems, conflict or challenges and outlining a better future engages both the logical and emotional parts of the brain. When these different brain parts work together, they have a huge influence over decision-making processes.

Improve your Storytelling Skills

Here at Body Talk, we’re passionate about helping clients to develop their business storytelling skillsGet in touch with us today to learn more about how we can help you to tell your story in the most compelling way possible.

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Understanding the Science of Business Storytelling

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