Why create a visual story?
Storytelling is one thing that basically transcends almost all cultures on this planet. Regardless of culture, time or location, knowledge has been transferred through storytelling. Now, you might be picturing a tribal community sitting around a fire sharing stories, but even right here and now, we get all of our news through storytelling. Before the comforts of modern technology, storytelling was the only technology for sharing knowledge.
Of course, the modalities of storytelling have become more advanced because we have more channels through which to communicate, like television and the internet. All of that aside, when you get down to the bare bones – it’s all stories. Whether it be in print, or through word of mouth, the more visual the story is, the better it is. Storytelling is so powerful that it has created multi-billion dollar industries, with Hollywood as just one example.
I believe that the reason storytelling has survived since the dawn of man is simply because our brains are hardwired to store most of our memories and knowledge in the form of images. In fact, almost 50% of the human brain is involved in visual processing. This might be why so many of our memories are recollected as images and not words. We do not read our memories, we see them, smell them, hear them and feel them.If you ask anyone where they were when 9/11 happened, most people will tell a very visual story because it’s those images that have stayed with them and best tell the story.
It is rare that someone would just say,“Oh, I was in class during 9/11.” Instead, they would say, “I was in a college course in which the classroom window had a perfect view of the towers. When I arrived, there was a TV in the room, which meant only one thing: nap time. The typical pre-class chatter abounded, this time about one of the towers smoking, and we reached a consensus that there must be a fire. The professor came in, shrugged off the alleged fire and closed the shades so he could put on the movie. We didn’t know it, but when class ended and those shades went up, our world would never be the same.” This is the story you would hear. These are the types of stories that stick with us and get passed along.
Visual stories like the one above make it much easier for people to remember compared to abstract facts. “[Memories] are mental reconstructions, nifty multimedia collages of how things were, that are shaped by how things are now.” People will be more likely to remember you if they can reconstruct your story in their mind. The first place to fail here is to not have a story at all.
Stories are Sticky
Visual storytelling is very powerful for several reasons. One is that stories which create images are sticky. Applied to the business world, storytelling can be a powerful means of educating people about the types of opportunities that you are interested in. Your goal should be to create images in their brains with visual words instead of abstract descriptors, like “She is very motivated”.
When you use an abstract descriptor like “motivated”, you are begging the question, “Motivated to do what? Scale a mountain? Win a pie eating contest?” Words that beg similar questions like, “strong work ethic”, “committed”, and “problem solver” are just empty words for whoever is reading your resume, there’s no proof.
In contrast, visual words create an image, like this story. “One of the moments I enjoyed most was walking home from the office in the quiet stillness of 3 in the morning, after completing a client project just in time for them to use it. Though exhausted, I was simultaneously invigorated and overjoyed by the fact that I got the job done and made our client happy.” A story like this will prove to a potential employer that you are hardworking without ever having to use the words.