Camelot & 5 Ways to Engage your Audience with Storytelling

Just because we’re living in the Digital Age, don’t think ancient means of human communication are passé.

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Camelot – a magical mystical place. Arthurian scholar Norris J. Lacy commented that “Camelot, located no where in particular, can be anywhere.” The first reference to Camelot was in 1170 and, still today, continues to be an enchanting story that delights and engages audiences of all ages. It is quite likely that the origins of this popular legend were most certainly born around Celtic campfires centuries before 1170. Out of Camelot comes our love for King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, as well as our belief that Merlin and Arthur really understood the significance of freeing Excaliber – proof of Arthur’s lineage and right to the throne. It is here that Galahad conquers the Siege Perilous, and where knights see a vision of the Holy Grail and swear to find it. And we cannot forget the romantic love between Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot. A timeless story has a little bit of something for everyone.

Why is this story something so many of us remember, and believe will likely still be retold a century from now? Perhaps because it is a story we fantasize as a metaphor for our own daily struggles – one which we can engage and believe? And through the magic of language, the story triggers our imagination, helping us relate to the characters, their values, and their hopes that are mostly closely aligned to our own.

Camelot is a good example of the power of a story; an illustration of what we can learn and relate through allegory and metaphor. What we can take from Camelot we can apply to our ability to write stories that are enduring and engaging to our audience. When I am telling stories, whether for pleasure or business, these are some of the things I consider:

1. Trigger the reader’s imagination: Einstein said imagination is more important than knowledge. Certainly, the image of a young Britton exacting a sword from a rock captures the imagination. People buy with their imagination, features and benefits to justify their thoughts.

2. Ignite an emotional response: People remember things they feel. Lancelot’s love for Guinevere, at conflict with his love for Arthur, is rife with emotion. Emotional memories are strong and tend to last because we relate to them differently than something that had no impact on our feelings.

3. Be human: As human’s we relate to others. Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere – all tragic and believable human figures. Our audience is affirmed as human beings through the stories we tell. It is a way of building a community – humanity is affirmed in storytelling. The only common denominator of our audience is that they are all human.

4. Use imagery: The use of imagery triggers the reader’s senses. Can you not vividly recall the surreal image of The Lady of the Lake’s haunting arm rising through the misty waters with Excalibur? Through this technique you increase the engagement of the audience. They can experience the story through enacting the sense – touch, smell, sound, sight and taste, and therefore the ability to recall will be enhanced.

5. Portray values: Jonah Sachs, author of “Winning the Story Wars,” says “…your role as an organization is to “connect your audience to their deeper values.” Your story isn’t about you it’s about motivating and empowering your audience.” Consider the values forged by brave ancient knights, hands clasped around a table without head or foot. So by creating that motivation, you are also creating emotion, imagination, and a human image associated to whatever story you are writing.

And as a general rule of thumb, keep your stories simple. There is no need to over complicate what you write. Avoid using “big” words and complicated details. Simple is better. The simpler a story, the more likely it will stick. Leo Widrich in his blog titled, “What listening to a story does to our Brains” tells us that “using simple language as well as low complexity is the best way truly relate to the happenings of a story.

The success of your story will be measured in your audiences’ engagement. Direct involvement from your audience means valuable actions such as sharing with their friends or remembering the brand’s message just a little more clearly.

If you are using social media as a channel for your story, you need to watch the actions taken across those channels. Or, if you are using a story as part of a campaign – your engagement and success is measured in the leads that are generated. When the audience is engaged in your story and converses about your brand, the brand then becomes content. Content that people are sharing. That is the desired effect.

And back to Camelot – our imaginations are engulfed in imagery of Britain in the times of King Arthur whose values and human characteristics create impact and most certainly trigger an emotional and memorable response. When writing your story – remember the one that has had the most impact in your life.

– Pat

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