Storytelling: Not Just for Children

Some of the best advice I have received is from my dear mentor, Sean Chai, on the importance of narrative. This was during my first informational interview with him, in which I was learning more about the company I was applying to. However, our conversation later shifted to talk about our shared passion for TED talks.

What are the elements that make a TED talk successful? Some factors include an interesting topic, a dynamic speaker, and good visuals. However, it can be argued that the most important factor is the narrative and how it is told.

Storytelling is an art in that it highlights the key points of many events and creates a takeaway at the end of it. It does not dump all the information on you at once, but rather slowly builds to the “Why?” question. The satisfaction of listening to a talk, raising questions, and having them answered in the end is unparalleled.

Similar to TED talks, the Athenaeum at CMC hosts a variety of speakers hailing from impressive backgrounds. Many of the Ath talks I sign up for is because of the topic. Surprisingly, though, only a fraction of these talks are fully engaging throughout the whole duration. The key component here is the storytelling. One of my favorite Ath talks from my time at CMC is by Arthur Brooks. What I found most successful about his talk was his setup of a clear question to answer, the buildup to the answer through unique anecdotes, his charismatic use of humor, and most importantly, the questions and discussions he sparked after the talk.

Since my talk with my mentor, I’ve focused more on how to structure the narratives I tell, which has helped immensely in job interviews and also engaging in interesting conversations with peers and strangers alike. It’s been two years since I’ve been given this advice, and I have seen evidence of its effectiveness come into fruition since then.

By: Sharon Chiang