Thursday, June 21, 2007

Travelling with "The Dog" -- a story about storytelling

I was reminded of the importance of storytelling in delivering a message. The lesson occurred on a Greyhound Bus, of all places, travelling across country. (I was looking to have a mid-life adventure -- and save a little money.)

The bus had several different drivers and made many stops. At each one the driver would tell us how long it would last and remind us to be back on the bus in time. The passengers generally ignored the message and the driver invariably would have to fetch a few stragglers.

So it was, as we neared a meal stop in Wyoming, the driver switched on the intercom. "I want to tell you the story of Rock Springs," he began. I setted back to enjoy a tale of some prospector who swung his pick and out came water. But, no.

"We leave more passengers in Rock Springs than any other stop," he said. "There are a number of restaurants and other places that don't look very far away. Invariably someone goes to one of these, loses track of the time and, when they come back, the bus is gone. The next bus isn't scheduled until 12 hours later. On top of that they probably left their ticket on the first bus, so they have to buy another ticket -- IF they have the money." He paused for effect. "Now, you have 30 minutes."

No more than 25 minutes later, everyone had returned to the bus, ready to go, thanks to a speaker who knew how to get the attention of his audience.


For more basics, see Writing for the Ear: a Primer in the left-hand column.

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