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The Storyteller

12 Oct

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“Sir Manny, I need your POV. Can you give me any tips for talking to a non-technical audience?”

I stared at the Facebook Messenger chatbox for a few minutes. I don’t really think much about speaking style. I’m of the opinion that putting too much thought into how I speak in public messes me up profoundly, so I avoid it like the plague. But this was a colleague reaching out with a genuinely legitimate concern. Technical people aren’t terribly comfortable talking to non-techies.

“Just relax and tell a story. Talk about a project you’ve done, and how you did it,” I replied.

I’m glad I remembered this. Storytelling is primal. It’s up there with eating, defecating, scratching and having sex. If civilization were to end tomorrow, the survivors would tell stories to each other wherever they gathered.

I’ve begun to notice that lately, I’ve turned into a creature from The Walking Dead. I walk around all day with my mobile phone in my face. While I don’t play games on it (well, not since I walked away from The Simpsons), I read comics and books on my phone. My attention span, never particularly long to begin with, has definitely shrunk.

Digital natives suffer from the same problem. This modern age teaches us to value multitasking, to jump from one piece of content to another. Content is being packaged in smaller and smaller bites to accommodate short attention spans.

In the short term, that means that as crafters of content we adjust to the taste of the audience. So content will get shorter and shorter.

In the long term, this could get problematic. But I strongly suspect that the pendulum will eventually swing the other way, and we will return to the days of longer and meatier content.

It’s been a few days now since my friend gave his talk. I hope it went well. I hope his audience learned things from him and were entertained by his story.

And I hope he carries on telling stories, because telling stories is the heart of who we are.



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