People are drawn to stories. It’s woven into the human genome. They are how we understand ourselves and others. It is this thought that, in 1997, prompted poet and bestselling novelist George Dawes Green to found The Moth, a platform dedicated to storytelling in New York.

Since its launch, The Moth has given artists and storytellers the opportunity to present their unique stories — live and without notes — to crowds worldwide. At the Digiday Retail Summit in Chicago this week, Green spoke to a room full of retailers about what he’s learned about storytelling — and how they can tell their own captivating stories to their audiences.

The essence of storytelling, Green said, lies in the vulnerability of the teller, or the ability to show weakness and failure — something that most brands tend to shy away. “A great story always involves a certain amount of confession,” he said. “It’s so important to be able to show those losses.”

Green pointed out that, by discussing previous defeats — adding a dash of humanity and humility to their personal stories — Abraham Lincoln, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton were able to catapult themselves to greater political heights.

Defeat works in business narratives too. Apple, for example, is inextricably tied up in the story of Steve Jobs, who endured massive setbacks in his career. The Bill Gates story, on the other hand, is one of “non-stop boring success,” said Green. “The fact that Steve Jobs had failed, makes his story so much more compelling.”

Here’s a snippet of Green’s talk.

  • LinkedIn Icon