All in the telling

The latest technologies, including cloud, social, anything mobile, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have and will continue to transform business, especially the customer experience, which still revolves around the story. Storytelling is still the centerpiece.

Nothing new there.

Storytelling has been the centerpiece since before anyone could even write. Oral traditions have been in use by countless cultures before any of this technology stuff showed up. Stories were used to transmit traditions, beliefs and lessons learned (best practices) from generation-to-generation. Over millennia, storytelling has evolved as technologies, such as writing, enable stories to be delivered in a variety of media: books, films and now rich, multi-mode forms that are even bending genres. The scope of storytelling is expanding rapidly.

The ability to immerse an audience in the storytelling experience is enriched by these modes. The goal is to bridge more closely the gap between people and experiences. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) involve audiences in much more than simple simulations. Oculus Rift and HoloLens immerse us in a startlingly realistic experience.

Even with the help of these advanced tools, however, yes, even with AR, VR and other acronyms, the immersive quality of a story depends less on the tools being used to tell it than on the artistry with which the tools are chosen and how the story is told. As an audience, we become immersed because the artistry wraps us up into a moment that takes us beyond a desire to be entertained.

We are well conditioned. Over thousands of years, generations upon generations, we have been shaped around a love for stories. From video games, to movies, to podcasts, what we seek is the thrill of the telling, stories told in captivating ways that resonate with us long afterwards. We crave connecting with something larger than ourselves, the people, worlds and experiences illustrated in our imaginations as these wonderful stories unfold.

Why? What is it that captivates us? What makes a good story? These are some ideas:

Authenticity – Short and sweet, this is arguably the most important component. If a story doesn’t come across in this context, the audience knows it.

Depth – Stories that cross over varying layers of sophistication are successful at reaching the broadest audiences. Some like to get real deep into things. In science-fiction, for example, some readers prefer the hard science of Isaac Asimov, who gets deep into the details, compared to the glossing over of such detail in trade for focusing on the bigger picture, the wondrous ideas and the hidden machinery that makes seemingly magical technology work, like Arthur C. Clarke. Then, there is Star Wars. This story transcended audiences with its broad scope of depth. Audiences could take it at its simplest or get very heavy with it.

Suspended disbelief – The story is a contract, a partnership between the teller and the audience. As the story unfolds, the audience conjures it up in their own imaginations. In order for all of it to work successfully, every detail counts to either construct or deconstruct our belief in the world being described.

Participation – Today’s audiences expect and want to be active participants in the telling rather than just listeners. They are compelled to share their involvement. Truly talented tellers come up with innovative ways to encourage more and more friendly opportunities for this to happen.

Branding experts, marketers and people who work in entertainment may have been able, at one time, to convince an audience of what a good story was. That time is gone, an ancient era of non-participatory media experiences. It is now non-negotiable to invite audiences into these stories, crafted with the telling in mind, at the center where it can survive only so long as people believe. Technology may work to help with casting the spell but only artistry of the telling can make it last.