Some of the best storytellers I have ever heard are country music singers. Unanswered Prayer by Garth Brooks, You Belong With Me by Taylor Swift or The Devil Went Down to Georgia by the Charlie Daniels band are great examples of how to capture love, heartbreak and pain that tugs at your heartstrings in three minutes or less. With its heartfelt lyrics and soulful melodies, like any well-crafted story, country music typically conveys powerful emotions that captures the essence of the human experience and can teach business communicators valuable lessons about storytelling.
- Emotion and Authenticity
One of the key elements of country music’s powerful storytelling is its ability to evoke strong emotions. Look no further than Carrie Underwoods All American Girl which tells a heartwarming story that spans multiple generations in just over three minutes. As storytellers, business communicators can also draw from their personal experiences to craft more compelling narratives that audiences can relate to.
- Universal Challenges
Country music often portrays everyday struggles and challenges others can relate to. By using examples of workplace problems and challenges, communicators can better connect with listeners making their messages more impactful.
- Visuals and Metaphors
Country and other popular songs are filled with vivid descriptions, sharp metaphors and memorable one liners. As examples, Life is a Highway by Tom Cocrane or You Ain’t Nothin But a Hound Dog by Elvis Presley paint pictures in our minds making them more engaging and memorable. A good speaker can also use descriptive language to create more compelling talks and presentations.
Yet, when I suggest people incorporate storytelling into their talks, many balk claiming it’s not their strength or they don’t have time. I beg to differ. No matter who you are, you are a storyteller. You have been sharing stories since you learned to speak. You shared them on the playground, after summer vacations, in the workplace and at home with your family. Yet at work so many wallow in too many details or data packed slides to convey information.
Imagine this. Moses is wandering the desert when God speaks to him. He tells Moses he has heard the cries of His people in Egypt, and he would like Moses to tell him how he will lead them out of captivity. The next day Moses returns to God and presents a data packed PowerPoint complete with maps, directional charts, compass settings, seasonal climate trends in the dessert and a breakdown of costs.
God is overwhelmed and doesn’t understand. He sends Moses back to the desert, telling him he does not have what it takes to lead the Israelites to a land flowing with milk and honey.
Obviously, it didn’t happen that way. Yet, everyday communicators overload listeners mistaking complicated information for engaging conversation. That is not storytelling.
- Simple Complexity
Country music has a unique ability to present complex emotions in a very simple way. You can do the same. If it takes you two minutes to say something, try saying it in half the time to keep people’s attention.
- Beginning. Middle. End.
Country songs, like many narratives, have a beginning, middle and end. They take the listener on a winding journey that ends with a resolution. Like a songwriter, speakers can learn to structure their stories in a similar manner to keep listeners tuned in.
Like country music, if speakers better organize, convey images, and strive for simplicity, they will create narratives that capture, inspire, motivate, and resonate with a wide variety of audiences. Like a great song, that narrative may even be so memorable that it will stand the test of time.
You don’t have to be a country singer to master the art of storytelling. You just have to take note from so many valuable lessons in their songbook.