Lessons in telling stories


cc image via flick by stephee

Read any book on presentations and the concept of storytelling will be in there somewhere actually more than in there, usually it will be quite prominent. I realize I need to work on this skill and therefore I am constantly looking out for great stories, or more specifically great storytellers. Today after church it dawned on me that any presenter can learn about storytelling from The Greatest Storyteller himself, Jesus.

Jesus often used parables.  For example, in Luke 13 we find the parable of the yeast.  Parables are a kind of analogy, and analogies are a device presenters often use. When thinking about some parables though, what occurred to me though is that analogies are audience-specific, i.e. it must make sense to your audience.

Think about it this way: in Jesus’ time baking bread with flour and yeast was commonplace; everybody baked their own, so the image that must have formed in their head would have been completely different to the average person today. If you are my age or less (even a bit older) chances are that you have never baked bread, or even seen one made from scratch. For those of us that know how it is done, it was probably done more as an occasional novelty and not a regular necessity. The imagery that you see in your mind when reading “A woman takes some yeast and mixes it with a bushel of flour until the whole batch of dough rises.” is thus completely different to when Jesus spoke those words.

Therefore, I you were to use those words today to a young audience you probably needs to spend much more time on explaining the analogy, on colouring in the picture than what Jesus had to do.

So next time you use an analogy be sure to think about the audience. Who are they? Does their context help/hinder the use of this analogy? How much more explanation is necessary?

Many, many things could play a role. The generation gap is real, so is the difference between genders. Audiences have varied literacy levels; there may be language and other cultural barriers, to name but a few.

For your next presentation, pick your analogies well.

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One Response to Lessons in telling stories

  1. […] Lessons in telling stories (rabotha.wordpress.com) […]

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