Storytelling is good business. In fact, it has obtained so much popularity in recent years the search phrase “storytelling in business” churned up over 63,200,000 results when I consulted The Google this morning while researching this article.

Why all the interest?

Storytelling is humanity’s oldest form of education. If you stop to think about it, our data-driven reality is just a puppy compared with the age old tradition of gathering around a campfire to weave tales that not only entertained, but also taught families how to gather and hunt, how to be in community, and how make sense of the world.

Imagine yourself sitting around a campfire or gathering in the living room to listen to a radio show. How would your mind respond while being transported by the voice of the storyteller? Would long lines of text and strings of sentences appear in your mind’s eye? Hell no! Your imagination would be ignited, creating pictures in your mind’s eye–pictures your brain would easily remember and could recall when posed with similar real-life situations.

We all know a picture is worth a thousand words. Which would your brain prefer to memorize?

  1. A word-for-word article explaining a concept?
  2. A single picture which not only encapsulates the concept, but also the feeling tones which enhance your understanding of it?

A robot would choose item #1. But you and your audience are emotional human beings whose mental landscapes traverse not one, but two cerebral hemispheres:

  1. Left loves language.
  2. Right revels in imagery.

Why would any thinking person engage only half her brain while doing business? Why would any presenter choose to engage only half the brain of each audience member? Certainly, my two item list above is an oversimplification of the underlying neuroscience, but as one of the brightest minds the modern world has ever known once said,

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
― Albert Einstein

Instead quoting brain research, or trying  explain precisely how a single image has the power to inspire action, creating significant change in society, I’ll invite you to experiment!

Here’s what I’d like you to do:

Please watch the TedTalk below, Photos that changed the world, given by the man who runs Getty Images, Jonathan Klein. But… instead of listening AND watching his talk, turn the volume completely off. Simply watch the sequence of images while noting the following:

  1. Do you remember seeing any of the images before? If so, what makes them memorable?
  2. What stories do certain images communicate?
  3. What emotions or feeling tones are triggered in your heart when you see them?

I hope you have fun converting this TedTalk into a TedWATCH! Be curious and open. Which images in particular stand out for you the most?

Okay! So now that you’ve experienced the exercise, replay the video with the sound turned up, noting if there is any difference in the level of your understanding. If you’ve enjoyed this, it might be interesting to find additional image-friendly TedTalks (like this one) and try the exercise again, but this time, without seeing a single images at all. Close your eyes or swivel your chair around and just listen. When you’re done, replay the video with your eyes turned on. How much is your understanding crippled without the “voice” of pictures?

Images bring us face to face with the world, and when we stand face to face, we can’t help but be in relationship.

Take action now! People might forget what you say, but they won’t forget how you make them feel. How can you begin incorporating visual storytelling into your business communication? Feel free to comment below and share this article with your friends and colleagues.

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Isn’t it time you tapped into this power when presenting your ideas to your audiences, whether they be visitors to your website or during your in-person or online speaking engagements? If so, I would be honored to help you shed light on your work by elevating the quality of your visual presentation through the power of pictures. Please get in touch!


Taos web designer Susan J PrestonCreative Director, Susan J. Preston, began freelancing as a web designer in Washington, DC in 1996. Her presentation design has appeared in animations, webinars, presentations for The Pew Foundation, iovation, Bloomberg BNA, Eli Lilly and The Discovery Channel. Since 2010 she has resided in Santa Fe & Taos, New Mexico, creating websites for creative professionals and entrepreneurs with a focus on clear and effective visual communication which clearly communicates and inspires audience engagement.

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