Welcome to ‘Captivate’ – QUT’s Storytelling e-newsletter
Captivate is a fresh storytelling e-newsletter from QUT that is the result of feedback from Agents after a recent visit to Brisbane. During the visit, Dr Anne Lane from QUT’s Business School provided insights into how storytelling can be used to help prospective students learn more about QUT and Brisbane as they consider their study destination.
In this edition, we discuss the strategy behind good storytelling, we revisit some of the ways storytelling can be used to make your communication about QUT even more powerful, and we provide some new storytelling resources.
Storytelling involved the delivery of stories in ways that interest, engage, and involve listeners. Storytellers draw upon shared emotional experiences. So stories resonate with us and our lived experiences, and audiences often identify with characters and situations. We build on that imagined connection to vicariously share the experiences of the characters in the story. This is a vital means of getting people to benefit from experiences they haven’t actually gone through themselves so they can feel and learn safely, at a distance.
Researchers have found the psychological selling of a story creates a trance-like state in the listener and, in so doing, makes them more receptive to suggestion.
Enhancing your storytelling skills
If you can captivate you can motivate. A good story that is told well captivates the attention of your audience. If you have the attention of your audience you have a better chance of motivating them. So, how do you enhance your storytelling skills?
One of the most important things you can do is to spend a little time clearly articulating your key message to your clients.
- What behaviour is required from the message receivers (i.e. prospective students and their parents)?
- Why should they undertake this behaviour?
From the QUT Workshop, the following were the top factors that you identified as most important to your clients:
Value/Scholarship and tuition fees
Diversity + Culture
Course Availability and Structure
Therefore the key messages that will come through your/our stories will be:
Now to find the story that relates to the ‘reason’ or ‘because’ part of your key message.
Remember, it has to:
- Be Truthful so that the story is authentic and legitimate
- Have a strong emotional element. This will connect the story to your client.
- It should resonate with your readers, so they should be able to recognise themselves or at least the characters in the story.
Stories can come from any number of sources. You might have some to tell yourselves. You might work with people who have some amazing stories to share. You might go to what we call a primary source, so those people who are your clients perhaps. If you are going to use someone else’s story though, be careful of the ethical considerations. People might be happy for you to share their story as long as they aren’t identified, and it’s often quite hard to do that. It might be worthwhile creating an ethical clearance template for people to sign, but you’ll need to get legal advice around that.
Whatever approach you take, I strongly encourage you to start writing down stories you come across now. You’ll be building up a library of resources you can dip into whenever the need arises. The more you keep an ear out for stories, the better you will get at recognising one.
Next, you’ll need to tell the story. You can do this either by relating your story in the first person – “I was at QUT last week talking to an academic in their Business school…”
Or you can report someone else’s story – ‘One of my clients went to study at QUT’s Business School last year and they said…’
- Stories should begin with an indication of the time and place where they took place. “Long ago in a galaxy far, far away…” You also need to present the tale with a logical sequence of events, so don’t opt for the fancy stuff of messing around with timelines.
- Make the story live. Describe how people in the story looked or felt, what they could see, hear, and smell etc. Be careful with this though, imagine this experiential stuff is like pepper in a soup. Used sparingly, it has a real kick. Overdone, it ruins things.
- Another way to help your story ‘speak’ to readers is through the use of language. Use expressions, colloquialisms, and slang. This is particularly good when you have been told a story by someone else. Keep in the words they use, the sayings, even the mistakes. It makes the story more real and authentic, and therefore more valuable.
The aim of our workshop was to provide the agents with a small PD exercise but also show them an experience like that we offer QUT students. At QUT (and in the Business School), we bring leading theories and models into the classroom and make them real by giving students the chance to apply them to real-world situations.
Best story from the workshop
“Last semester, 2019 in Denmark, we had a student who really wanted a great internship at one of the top consultancy firms which are really hard to get. She wasn’t able to get such an internship from her current university since the top firms didn’t recruit from that university. They only recruited from Copenhagen Business School and she was at Aarhus University in Jutland. Therefore, she came to us to find a university to do a semester abroad at a top-ranked university. We then counselled her to pick a Triple Crown accredited university in an English-speaking country. There were a few choices but since she also wanted to learn how to surf and become tanned we suggested the highly ranked Brisbane university, QUT. Since she chose this university she was able to acquire an internship at Mckinsey’s Sydney office in Darling Harbour. Here she worked 90 hours a week for 4 weeks and now when she got back to Denmark she landed a top job at Danske Bank.”