Why Telling a Story Works Better on Video than Selling

Posted By on October 25, 2012

If you want to move people, telling stories is the fastest and most direct route to tears, laughter and joy. That’s why business videos that tell stories are more effective than those that sell.

Business videos need stories to make people lean in.

Next time you’re in front of a group of business people, test the phrase “Let me tell you a story,” and you’ll see people turn toward you, incline their heads, and relax.

Now try this with the phrase, “Let me sell you.” Hmm. People will cross their arms and sit back in their seats in an instinctive effort to get away or protect themselves.

There are a million ways to tell a story.

Typical stories start off with a hero or heroine in trouble. Think Cinderella in rags, sweeping cinders from the fireplace. Then there’s a villain, like the Evil Stepmother, who blocks Cinderella’s goal, which today is usually either finding a good job (the movie Working Girl), making the mean kids bleed from their ears and eyeballs (the movie Carrie), or finding the handsome prince and leaving the ugly stepsisters without toes (the original Grimm’s Brother’s version of the Cinderella story).

Often, there’s also a fairy godmother who helps the heroine by providing the spell, the pumpkin for the carriage, and the designer dress to catch the prince’s eye, setting the love plot in motion or bringing it to a happy conclusion.

What do you think of our story?

Because we’re big believers in stories, we chose two master storytellers, Chris Caldwell and Zeek Earl, of Shep Films to tell Two Pens story on film. These young indie filmmakers conducted interviews with Emily and me. Their questions set up a natural narrative structure that allowed Emily and me to be both the “heroines” of our little company and the narrators of our tale.
In the film, a lack of skill in writing for social media is the Evil Stepmother that we—and our students—have to conquer in order to woo a social media following. Watch the film and you’ll see us in action, teaching, cajoling, encouraging, and providing the sharp pens that allow our students to tell their own riveting tales.

Short and tweet? Or…?

The best business videos on YouTube are even shorter than a short story. That’s why our little film lasts 2 minutes and 48 seconds. We’d love to know if it keeps your attention and makes you want to know more.

Cynthia Hartwig