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Telling Tales

The human brain is a remarkable thing.It takes in information at a phenomenal rate and then forgets most of it.

Our eyes see that we’ve put our car keys on the table, our brain registers that information pops it in to short term storage and we then think about cake.

Mmmmm cake…

After a few moments thinking about cake our brains return to the problem of where the car keys are and… nope, it’s gone. It never made it into the, you know, thingy, the bit that does the whatsit…

So why do some things stay and some things go?

One of the ways that our brains have evolved is through the creation and understanding of stories.

Stories have given Homo-sapiens an advantage over other animals. Animals with higher brain function (not worms and jellyfish) learn from experience, they do something, get hurt or scared or have a positive reaction and they learn from it. Even goldfish will learn to take food at specific times from specific places; they learn that there will be a positive outcome of their actions.

We don’t bother with that, we just tell each other.

For example “my friend ate that berry and was very ill, so now we don’t eat that berry” or “I just killed a tiger, and this is how I did it.” The primitive human group now stops getting poisoned and stops getting eaten by tigers.


Our brains crave stories, we look for them when they aren’t there, we build coincidence to explain difficult statistics, we create religion to explain living together, we write novels and screenplays and lie about things.

We need context and narrative to remember… it’s what our brains were built for.

Humans ARE stories.

So why has that presentation just been information?

The list of figures goes in and falls straight back out again.

So what can you do to be memorable?

· Build a narrative around your information, why is it there, why is it important, what lead to this, what does it mean for me.

· Give your information context

· Think about your beginning, middle and end.

The audience is looking for all of these things, and needs these things otherwise they won’t remember why you were there in the first place.

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