Storytelling In Person

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by Sven Larsen (@zemoga)

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in how to tell a story…

  1. Should we do it in a text narrative?
  2. Would it work well as a bulleted PowerPoint presentation?
  3. Could we use kinetic typography to make a great short video?
  4. What kind of backing track would create the right mood?
  5. Would this work as a comic-book style graphic novel?

…that we forget about who is involved.

We forget about the importance of telling a story as a person, and to a person. The real meaning of storytelling lies in that exchange. Storytelling without your audience isnt storytelling, its talking to yourself. And speaking to an audience without a storytellers unique voice isnt storytelling… its presenting an anonymous report.

Storytelling needs to involve personality to work, both yours and theirs. But when theyre both there, thats when it does work. Thats when the real magic of the story happens.

And thats why it can make such a difference in health care.

California physician blogger Dr. Jan Gurley points out that her patients (and all of us) know most of what we need to be doing to take care of ourselves. We arent less-than-healthy because we dont realize that junk food and lethargy arent the best ways to take care of ourselves, or that the directions on our prescription should be followed. We dont take good care of ourselves not because of ignorance, but because we havent been emotionally involved in the story of why we should.

She offers ten tips on how to tell a physician can connect with a patient by telling a story that will matter to them. Tell a story of an individual, make it detailed, give it a narrative arc and a climax…

My question is, are we doing the same in our digital offerings to those same patients?

All too often, we present facts, frequently because we are prohibited by regulation from drawing conclusions for patients. We are not always allowed to tell specific patient stories. From product labeling to HIPAA laws, there are a host of reasons why stories arent always easy to tell.

But as effective as they are, as helpful as they can be, as deeply as they can affect patients – shouldnt we still try?

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