Trainer Profile: Danny Scheinmann
Danny Scheinmann is a professional storyteller, theatre actor, film-maker, bestselling novelist and an award-winning screenwriter. He’s an expert in storytelling techniques and has worked with large businesses such as Microsoft, Kingfisher and Nokia to help them use storytelling to engage with their audiences and make their messages stick. As an actor, Danny has performed at the National Theatre, Birmingham Repertory, Royal Shakespeare Company and in many film and TV shows. His debut novel, Random Acts of Heroic Love, was a bestseller in the UK, while his second book, The Half Life of Joshua Jones, was released last year.
Q: Why do you think storytelling works in a professional environment?
For a long time storytelling wasn’t at all popular in business, but suddenly it became very fashionable and people began to realise every business needs a narrative. They need a narrative about who they are, and about their products. It has been proven in neuroscientific research that storytelling is a lot more engaging and memorable than data. So, if you tell a story to the audience, according to research from London Business School, people are about 14 more times likely to remember it.
Storytelling engages people because it releases oxytocin in the brain, which are responsible for empathy. If you want people to empathise with what you are doing, engage with it and therefore buy into it, use stories not data. Businesses have began to realise that storytelling is a much more powerful tool, because they are memorable, engaging, and appeal to emotions. We are, as human beings, hardwired to stories. It has been deep in our psyche for thousands of years. Everything is a story. When you stand by the coffee machine, you tell stories to each other. We are obsessed with stories and it is so much part of the way we think. Therefore, if you can be a master of story, then you can be a master of your message.
Q: What skills does it take to become a good storyteller?
I think anybody can become a good storyteller. I teach students at university and I feel with enough practice anyone could do it. A good storyteller is you at your best – comfortable, and relaxed. Your personal style is very important. Woody Allen would tell a story very differently than George Clooney, for example. You need to know how to get to the heart of the story. If you tell a story that doesn’t have a purpose…ask yourself: “what do I want people to do? How do I want them to behave differently?” You have to find a story that gives an example or shows this kind of behaviour in action. Show how it is done or show how it has been done before. Stories work like a flight simulator for the brain. Really it is about getting to the heart of the story you want to tell. Finally: practice, practice, and practice…
Because I’ve been doing it for so long, I can pretty much stand up and tell a story without having to write it or script it in any way whatsoever. I do recommend people to practice it out loud a couple of times. When you tell a story out loud, you find you get stuck in a couple of places. Those places need work and those are the places where you really have to think it through and ask: “what am I trying to say here? Where is the story going? Where should I add detail?”
Q: What makes you tick?
Communicating a decent story is exciting whichever way I do it. Either by writing books, directing or even acting or teaching – the power of stories and what happens next excites me. Creating stories is such a lovely thing to do, because it’s a deep dive into the imagination. I never tire of it. There are so many manifestations of a story. Me at my best is when I’m stood up telling a story. I lose my sense of self in the moment and I love it.
Q: What have been the highlights of your career?
In terms of acting, playing at the National Theatre in Britain was a big highlight. The success of my first novel, Random Acts of Heroic Love, and becoming a bestseller was also definitely a highlight. Now, I’m directing my first feature film. In terms of business, the work I did with Kingfisher, where we put on an incredible show for 300 people, called Conference of the Birds, that was a highlight and an incredible experience.
Danny teaches a course on Powerful Storytelling for Clear Europe.