Storyteller Secrets

Digital Storytelling-P1


For thousands of years, storytellers passed down their stories orally.  Around 8,000 years ago, the first story was recorded on a clay tablet called a cuneiform.  That story was called, “The Epic of Gilgamesh.”  Oral tradition was the preferred method of telling stories until the 15th Century when the printing press was invented.   Today, the magic of digital technology has created a whole new reality in storytelling–digital storytelling.


Digital Storytelling can combine: pictures, video, multimedia, audio, hypertext, 2D & 3D animation, music, sound effects, text, and narrations into an interactive and engaging format that can motivate and increase learning across the board.  In addition, the four learning styles: auditory, visual, reading, and kinesthetic are in full force in the majority of good digital stories.

So, what is Digital Storytelling?  Jerome Gratigny did a fine job of telling exactly what it is.

But at its core is still the message.  The rest of the digital storytelling elements are metaphors that keep supporting the message.  Therefore, the music must become a metaphor for the message, the colors, animation, images, dialog, whatever you are using becomes a metaphor  for the message.

Now, because of the wide array of digital elements available the old method of ‘writing it up’ needs to evolve.  It is best to use a storyboard.  So, what is a storyboard?

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A comic strip is a good example of a storyboard.  This is a four-panel storyboard from beginning to end reading left to right.  Every time I mention storyboard a hand goes up followed by, “I can’t draw!”  In truth, you don’t have to know how to draw.  You must just understand a storyboard is no more than a map showing where you start and finish.  We will go over in more detail tomorrow about how to put a storyboard together.

The next element is timing.  How long should your story be?  That depends on your message.  The commercials in Super bowl 2018 will cost over $5 million dollars for a 30-second ad.  Take a look at these 2017 Super Bowl ads, which cost only $166,667 dollars per second.  Can you identify the message?

When telling a story all you need is a little creativity and imagination.  When putting a digital story together you must think outside the box.  Don’t just think of still images anymore.  Think of images that actually move.

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There are thousands of ways to add digital media.  It is not about how much, but more what you need in order to move the story and the message forward.  The big difference between the 1951 and 2008 remake of, “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” was the 1951 had a message; whereas, the 2008 decided to concentrate on CGI and SFX.  That is why the 2008 remake movie bombed.  People go to the movies to be entertained with a story and to come out with a message.

A computer hooked up the Internet is a magic wand for you to deliver your message.  But it can also be Pandora’s box.   Tomorrow, we will explore the story-board.



Strategic Story

The Power of Strategic Stories

I’m often asked, “Peter, what exactly is a Strategic Story?”

A Strategic Story is designed and crafted to engage and motivate the listener towards completing a specific action or objective.   A good example of this is the Gettysburg Address.  A speech delivered on November 19, 1863 to honor the dead at the battle of Gettysburg.


Everyone has heard of the Gettysburg address and most know the first line by heart.  Abraham Lincoln was a great storyteller, and the Gettysburg address is a strategic story that has engaged and motivated listeners for decades towards a specific action and goal—the preservation of this nation.

It was the Constitution of the United States that was at the heart of the Civil War, which was being challenged by Southern States.   But, Lincoln doesn’t go back to the signing of the Constitution, on September 17, 1787, instead he returns to the signing of the Declaration of Independence—1776.  Why?


Because one month before this speech Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which not only ended all slavery in the South, but echoed the Declaration of Independence’s first line, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”  Lincoln paraphrased this with, “…our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Interesting enough, in all of Lincoln’s past speeches, he never mentions the word nation.  In fact, he concentrated on the word union over twenty times–never nation; However, by 1863, he begins to realize the union is not sustainable without a nation.  His second paragraph uses Nation in the strongest sense, Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

It was Edward Everett, who was the first speaker that day, he spoke 13,000 words for two-hours, yet no one remembered what he said.   Everett concentrated his speech on those soldiers who had given their lives both at Gettysburg and back during the Revolutionary War.  While Everett, focused on topping Shakespeare’s Marc Anthony speech for the dead, Lincoln chose to talk about those still alive and their future.

In Lincoln’s third and final paragraph he states clearly that there is still unfinished work to complete (an objective/goal) and we owe it to those who already, “Gave the last full measure of devotion…”  He then ends with a solemn oath, “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The Gettysburg address is a Strategic Story.  It begins like a story, “Four score and seven years ago,” same as, “A long time ago.”  It’s a persuasive argument told in a story format.  A Strategic Story is a skill that can be learned.  It’s also a powerful marketing tool that steps up visibility and increases leads.