Storytelling in Insight

On a hangover day I often find myself staggering down to my sofa, flicking on a Sir David Attenborough documentary while digging into last night’s pizza. A few episodes in, I realise Sir David Attenborough is probably one of the most incredible, most amazing, most extraordinary storytellers on earth. Is there anything us insight professionals can learn from one of the best storytellers out there? The way in which he opens his stories and positions the subplots, is fascinating to watch.

Most of his documentaries start with a powerful statement, then he tells you something you already know, only to build on that foundation to lead you into the various sub-plots. He will then conclude on an enlightening summary that leaves you uplifted.

Powerful Statement

“This is the most extraordinary place on earth”- Attenborough starts nearly every show with a bold captivating statement like this, that makes us feel engaged from the first moment. How many of us insight professionals start our debriefs/meetings with this much passion and power? Most of the time the first thing that we do is get names from round the table. Maybe we should think more about the very first verbal, visual and written cues we give at the start of any presentation. How do we create that impact from the very first moment? We should really prep how we enter the room and what will be the first thing we say to our audience. What about the front cover or title of the presentation? How can we heighten that engagement from that first moment? “Today I’m going to take you through a presentation that will solve xxx” might be a good opener or something that is a little abrasive. Really paying attention to the tone in your voice and where you are standing in the room all adds to the drama, something we need to do more of. 


Tell me something they already know

Attenborough eases people into the story by explaining a well-known fact (e.g. the theory of evolution). This is a clever springboard, as it puts the audience at ease and gives everyone the same platform. How do we insight professionals build in a springboard like this into our debriefs? Potentially it is a recap of the objectives or a repeat of the findings from a previous project or even a familiar, relevant insight the stakeholder already knows. Using this foundation to help us land the real insights/new news is for me something interesting to think about in our stories.


The Enlightening Summary

The way Attenborough concludes his show is even more fascinating. He uses a technique that I have termed ‘Enlightening Summary’.  He uses a feel-good tone in his voice which is against a backdrop of positive and upbeat music. The content of his conclusion nearly always includes a rhetorical question. This combo leaves you feeling enriched, positive and wanting more. I also noticed that in his summary there is always a mirroring of how he started the show, either by showing clips from the beginning of the show or by repeating his Power Statement. This technique in the enlightening summary really does allow the audience to feel a sense of achievement. As insight professionals thinking about how we leave the room is as important as how we enter. Maybe, we can end our presentation with a bit of mirroring of the start, change the tone in our verbal delivery and slideware. Maybe the positioning of next steps includes actions and questions.


My go to storytelling techniques have always been: SCQA, Pro-Model by UKBodyTalk & Hero’s journey among others. However, maybe this analysis of what I think is Sir David Attenborough’s approach is another that we could learn from.    


Key Links

Pro’s Model contact : https://www.ukbodytalk.com 

Hero’s Journey : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1Zxt28ff-E

SCQA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JVV1H_uD_M

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