A simple method to help you to remember stories

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —January 15, 2015
Filed in Business storytelling

The most effective use of business storytelling is when you can tell a story to make a point off the cuff, no preparation. This can only happen if you remember stories to tell. A good way to do that is to simply tell stories as soon as you can after finding them. Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve reminds us that to really make them stick you need to tell the story a few times spaced over time, say in a day, a week, a month.

This video illustrates a simple method I’ve developed that not only helps you remember the story, but it also helps you associate the story with things that are meaningful and relevant so it pops to mind when you most need it. And as an added bonus making the connection to meaning reinforces your ability to remember.

I found this video (and two others that I will post in the coming weeks) in a new years office clean up. I hope you had an enjoyable Christmas break and you are energised for a exciting 2015. Happy New Year. I’m really looking forward to helping you be an even better business storyteller this year.


What does the story mean to the listener?

Hi, it’s Shawn Callahan from Anecdote, another story telling tip for leaders. This is all about how do you remember the stories you need to tell, right. This is a simple tip that I use, it works very well and that is, whenever you hear a story that you think, “Yeah I’d love to be able to tell that story,” what you need to do, as soon as you hear it, is tell it to someone else. So hear the story, tell it to someone else and then this is the key thing, you ask them to tell you what the story meant to them.

So you might tell a story, they might say, “You know what that means to me? That it’s really important to push through those and be persistent even when things and times are tough,” and you go, “Oh great.” So that then becomes the tag if you like for that story.

The Victorian Police Commissioner tells her story

I’ll give you a little example. I did some work for the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction Authority. This is the group that helped Victoria recover from the terrible fires that we had a number of years ago. The chair person for the group was a lady called Christine Nixon. She used to be the Police Commissioner. She took on this role to help Victoria recover from these fires.

Now, we were running a big workshop, I asked her to see if she could tell a story at the beginning of the workshop to set it off in the right sort of way that we wanted to get things kicked off,, and I said, “Do you have a story?” And she said, “You know what, I can think of a story.” About two weeks after the fires, one the companies that provide spectacles and reading glasses, a company called OPSM, put caravans out into the fire affected areas so that if anyone had any problems with their eyes, maybe they had grit in their eyes or broken spectacles, they would help them out.

Anyway, on this one particular day an elderly couple came up to one of the caravans. The woman was complaining of grit in her eyes and so they cleaned out her eyes and that was all fine. Then they turned to the husband and said, “Can we help you out,” and she said, “Oh look, my husband is legally blind through diabetes actually, ” and they asked him, “So do you know when was the last time you had your eyes checked?” And he said, “Well, actually it’s about seven years ago.” “Seven years!” and I said, “No, no, no, that’s way too long. You have to get your eyes checked much more regularly than that.” And you know, lots of technologies have changed in the meantime.

So anyway, they booked him into the ophthalmologist, he went to the ophthalmologist. Turns out, that he has a condition that they can actually treat now with the new techniques and methods and technologies. So he goes in and has the operation. A few months after that, he regains his eye sight.

Small things can make a big difference

Anyway, as soon as I hear this story, I think, “Oh my God that’s a fantastic story.” I tell it to a lady who worked with Christine called Debra and I said, “Debra, what do you take away from that story?” And she said to me, “You know what, even in the shittiest situation, good things can happen. “Okay, that’s a good sort of message.”

Anyway, I rang up my business partner Mark and I said, “Mark,” I told him the story and I said, “What does that mean to you?” And he said, “For me, you know small things can make a big difference.” Right so I took note of that. And essentially what you’re doing by re-telling the stories, you are strengthening those synapses, those connections to help you remember the story and by asking people to give you what it means, it’s like your little tag that helps you remember it.

So, imagine you’re in a meeting, someone says, “You know what, sometimes small things can make a big difference.” That story will immediately come to mind and you’ll be able to tell it. Right off the top of your head, right there and then to give a clear illustration of actually how that happens, how it works.

Anyway, that’s a little tip for you today. Go out, use it and I hope you have a great storytelling week. Bye for now.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

Comments Off on A simple method to help you to remember stories