Welcome to the first of several blog posts we’ll be sharing featuring TED talks that can help you if you’re in the tourism industry. Today’s topic? Storytelling. Being a tour guide, or tour operator or tour director requires you to constantly think about your stories, whether it’s what you share with your guests on tour, or the story of your company, your very brand identity. We here at TripSchool believe deeply in the transformative power of travel, and that largely happens in the stories you hear, from your tour guide, others you meet, and of course the way your own personal narrative changes after exploring the world.

In no particular order, here we go!

  • The clues to a great story – Andrew Stanton
    No doubt my favorite TED storytelling talk. This is the guy who helped make such great animated films as Wall-E and Toy Story. He hits on all the things I think a tour guide should know about story-building: make a promise to your audience at the beginning of the story that this will be worth your time, and then drive incessantly towards an ending that you know is worth it, like a pebble in a slingshot. Along the way, great stories deepen the truths of what it means to be human, and makes me care more about others and the world. But good storytelling requires your listener to work for this, or it doesn’t feel worth it. So many more great nuggets
  • The magical science of storytelling – David JP Phillips
    This TED classic breaksdown the way storytelling affects our brains, the same way falling in love does. It talks hormones and chemicals, but more importantly reminds us that our brains are waiting for good stories that contain suspense, cliffhangers, and make us vulnerable and open to deep connection with others.
  • The dark side of storytelling – Suzanne Duncan
    Some of the most important stories in our line of work are those we tell ourselves. We have a tendency to take credit when things go well, and blame outside influences when they don’t. Our brains use these stories to define who we are, so it’s worth paying attention to them.
  • Why Stories Captivate – Tomas Pueyo
    A good talk about story structure. This guy’s well known for looking at movies and stories as a circular structure; he reminds us that storytelling is an “empathy machine” that works far more powerfully than just a collection of facts, but we’re often afraid to try telling stories, because it seems hard to craft them, rather than just rattling off statistics and dates.
  • The future of storytelling – Shonda Rhimes and Cyndi Stivers
    The famous writer and producer behind so many TV hits talks about what she sees ahead for TV, media and storytelling in general. New technologies might change the way storytelling looks, but what won’t change is the need to feel part of something larger than ourselves by coming together, around the campfire, to share stories about who we are. We should all be creatively thinking about new ways to bring people together and engage them. Rhimes also mentions that even in the age of 1-minute Snapchat stories, there’s a way to tell a story in that framework!
  • The Skill of Humor – Andrew Tarvin
    Tarvin does a good job of reminding us that humor solves a lot of tour problems (by laughing them away together)! And creates a great bond with your guests. You don’t have to be naturally funny to use humor, especially when improv techniques have more to do with listening and connecting with your guests, than with being a comedian.
  • Seven Keys to Good Storytelling – Josh Campbell
    This guy organizes storytelling events for a living, meaning he has a lot of experience preparing people who don’t feel ready to tell their story, or face the public. His tips are a good series of reminders for when we practice our craft.
  • What Great Storytellers Know – Matt Chan
    This talk, from a producer of Hoarders, focuses around one essential aspect of storytelling: hooking your audience by engaging them with what they know, and leading them somewhere. This sounds so easy, and yet so many tour guides lose their guests by not properly knowing what their audience wants.
  • What Can Storytelling Teach Us About Creating Connection? – Doug Lipman
    Lipman started his storytelling career when he was forced to suddenly tell a story in front of a crowd of unenthused teenagers, and to his surprise he watched as they hung on his words while he developed a story. A great story leaves details to the audience, and together you co-create your story by getting them to imagine along with you. As always, he mentions that great stories require noticing audiences reactions, and reacting accordingly, like riding a bike. Subtle adjustments as you roll along, to stay on track.
  • The storytelling animal: Jonathan Gottschall
    Gottschall is a strange creature who did a PhD in English, under the direction of an evolutionary biologist! The result is tantalizing: an excellent book, and nice TED talk on the ways our minds want to make stories out of what we see. He melds science and knowledge of literature to make a compelling argument for storytelling being one of the most human activities we can practice.
  • Public Narrative: Storytelling to change the world | Jeremy Ornstein
    Jeremy makes an impassioned please for telling stories that you care about, and learn to tell them in a way that makes others care. He calls it “public narrative” and for him, it’s all about his passion for climate change awareness and the Green New Deal. Learn to tell a story using your head and heart, together. One of the best parts of this talk? He’s only 18 years old.