Using stories at work
You might think storytelling is something you grow out of – or use rarely. But the fact is that you tell stories every day – to inform, persuade and inspire.
How’s that working out? Are you as informative as you could be? Are your listeners and readers convinced by what you say? Do you inspire them to follow you, buy from you, keep listening and reading…?
Or does this sound more familiar:
- you struggle to deliver factual information without causing your audience to nod off
- you apply for jobs, or try to sell something, only to see your efforts chucked in the bin
- you fail to inspire, and watch helpless as your audience drifts away
Storytelling is a fundamental part of being human. We all do it. But some people seem to do it more effectively than others.
Of course, they follow the same general principles as everyone else – Google “secrets of storytelling” and you’re sure to find them.
The people who copy and paste those principles and splatter them all over the internet will promise to teach you better storytelling. But how do you know if they’re any good?
Have no fear – no prior knowledge required. Just take our word for it that he was hot stuff.
For now, all you need to know is that Chaucer came up with the idea of people having a competition to tell the best story while walking together.
We nicked the idea, and we think he deserves some credit.
We do run Chaucer’s Game for organisations, but our public events are open to anybody.
For people who come on their own, or with a couple of friends, it can be a bit weird to join a large group from a workplace – so if you want us to organise a special event for your workplace (or other organisation) just get in touch.
You can do that by leaving a comment below.
To leave a comment, you’ll need to leave your contact details. These will not show up publicly, but we can see them. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
It works like this: a group of us meet, start walking towards a pre-determined destination, and tell stories till we get there – like in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
For much of the journey, the storytelling is not competitive. But the idea is to improve your storytelling, so you’ll be given specific exercises to try out in pairs or in larger groups – exercises that encourage you to take a few risks.
Sometimes we tell stories while we walk. Sometimes we stop for a bit.
Towards the end, you will get the chance to do some competitive storytelling. If that fills you with dread – have no fear. It’s a very mild form of competition.
It’s nice to end up with a winner.
We’ve played the game with just two people, and we’ve played with 30.
Most of the storytelling takes place in pairs or small groups, so the overall number doesn’t matter that much.
We love it when people say this, because it means we get to use an exercise proving that absolutely everybody has an imagination.
We dare you to prove us wrong.
Glad you asked! That’s the spirit…
In The Canterbury Tales, the winning storyteller was offered a free meal, and we like to do something similar.
If we finish our game with lunch, or afternoon tea, perhaps we’ll treat you.
But we’re open to other suggestions.
Depends on the weather. Raincoat? Sunglasses?
Also, you might want to bring something to eat, and if you’re playing a longish game you might want to bring some food.
If you’re mad keen on note-taking, you’ll need paper and pen, or pencil – but that’s not strictly necessary, and might feel a bit of a drag. We think you’ll remember everything that matters anyway.
If you have any special requirements – for instance, if you use a wheelchair – just let us know and we’ll plan the journey around that.
- How to get out of your own way, and make things up spontaneously
- How to build structure as you go along
- What to hold back, to sustain interest, and when to reveal it
- How to increase your emotional impact
- How to read your audience, and tailor your story accordingly
We travel to play wherever we’re invited.
Typically, we aim for a destination of literary interest, and choose a route that avoids traffic, ideally ending where we started.
In London, we particularly like to use Hampstead Heath. It’s big enough for a walk that can last all day (if necessary), and there are many literary/storytelling connections nearby.
Plus, the air tends to be fresher than elsewhere in London, there are fantastic views over London, and you’re not short of places to eat.
It’s close to transport links, making it handy for Londoners with busy schedules, and non-Londoners who need to whizz home afterwards.
In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the storytellers are on a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral, to visit the shrine of St Thomas.
They never actually reach their destination, mind you, but it’s important that they have one.
Playing Chaucer’s Game, we follow his example by calling ourselves pilgrims. But we are story pilgrims, and we generally choose a destination that is sacred to storytellers rather than something religious. The birthplace of a great author, for example.
By happy chance, the destinations we choose are sometimes doubly sacred – as when we traipse to an author’s grave: Jane Austen, for instance, is buried in Winchester Cathedral.
If we are playing the game in a literary wasteland (!), we head for a church. It’s a good place to sit and think, whether you are religious or not.
Whatever you believe, you’re welcome to join us.