Gentle Bamboo Solutions

The “Show, don’t tell” Principle


One of the most important principles of storytelling is “Show, don’t tell“.

“Show, don’t tell” is a technique used in various kinds of texts to allow the reader to experience the story through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the author’s exposition, summarization, and description.

I have practiced this idea in training sessions to create a bigger impact for a long time now. While it works well for most aspects, it really shines through when I have to quote some statistical data. I never share the statistics without some personalized context. I always use one of these two methods:

Do a poll

For example, I don’t say “70% of the participants when offered these three choices picked the third option.” Instead, I offer the same three choices to the learners in my session and do a poll in which they actually make a choice. This poll is done before sharing the statistic.

Sharing the statistical data afterward has a much bigger impact as I now have a comparison with a number we all just came up with. Whether or not my participants get close to the survey I’m quoting, there is a more memorable point to be made.

Present data in a way that it stands out distinctly

The best example I can give of this is from a speech I found in a Public Speaking book by Mr. Borden. The speaker has to talk about Traffic Accidents, and starts the speech with this first line: “Four hundred and fifty shiny new coffins were delivered to the city last Thursday.”

Clearly a much more macabre way of communicating the statistics of traffic-related deaths, and much more visual too – and infinitely more memorable.

This is the essence of Show, don’t tell. You can present statistics (or for that matter any idea) to your learners in three ways – boring, matter-of-fact, and memorable.

Using one of these ideas and more specifically the “Show, don’t tell” approach will increase your chances of being more memorable.

Being memorable means being discussed by your participants. Which leads to getting called back for more sessions. Which directly contributes to the growth of your business. A new workshop focused on even more actionable ideas is coming soon. Watch this space for Business Growth Roadmap.

Showing, not telling,