ISE Blog

Storytelling in a Digital Age: Insights from Inbound

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend HubSpot’s annual Inbound event, a conference aiming to connect, educate, and inspire marketing professionals and others in creative roles. This year, over 21,000 people crowded the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center to soak up some knowledge and get re-energized on all things business growth. 

HubSpot Inbound 2017

Throughout the conference, I listened to some amazing keynote speakers, including Piera Gelardi, Executive Creative Director & Co-Founder, of Refinery29, and Michelle Obama, Former First Lady. One theme emerged for me as I set in numerous breakout sessions; the key to creating content that makes people take action, is telling a great story.

It seems like a no-brainer, right? However, the real question quickly becomes, how can you tell a great story and get people to listen?

The Science of Storytelling

I think Carmen Simon, Cognitive Neuroscientist at Memzy, really hit the nail on the head during her session, when she said, “memory is at the root of all storytelling.” I learned that a memorable story must have a framework with these three elements:

  • Perceptive (sensory impressions, context, and action across time)
  • Cognitive (facts, commands, and meaning)
  • Affective (emotions, values, and motivations)

The really challenging part is getting people to remember both the concrete and abstract details. Now that we understand HOW to tell a memorable story, by including the elements above, we should also talk about WHY we’re telling the story in the first place. 

The answer is simple: to influence people to move (preferably towards you). The core purpose of having a brain is to move around our environment in a meaningful way. To take space in someone’s mind is an exceptionally valuable thing. To influence someone to move towards you to make a decision in your favor is even more valuable. I found Carmen’s research on this topic fascinating. You can learn more about it here:

Creating Maximum Impact

One example of a memorable story relating to moving in the right direction, was HubSpot Co-Founder, Darmesh Shah’s encounter with Elon Musk. At a social gathering Darmesh had the opportunity to sit next to Elon and ask him how he works towards solving big problems. His somewhat vague response was:

If your company is trying to get from Point A to Point B. Then…

  • Every person on your team is a vector
  • Your progress is determined by the sum of all vectors

Darmesh thought on this for a while, and then deduced the following:

  • A vector is a quantity having both magnitude and direction
  • If a vector (team member) has a high impact but is moving in the wrong direction, this obviously affects the sum (company growth) in a negative way
  • When vectors are pulling in opposite ways, the algebraic sum is called the null vector, having zero magnitude and unknown direction (pictured below)
  • When your vectors are aligned, you create maximum impact
Darmesh Shah Null Vector Talk

This story really resonated with me, having experienced working on teams in the past with vectors moving in opposite directions. It was interesting, relatable, and had all elements of a memorable story. You can watch the video of Darmesh’s story as well as other talks from Inbound 2017 at:

To recap, Inbound gave me the opportunity to sharpen my skills, listen to innovative ideas, and think critically about why and how I spend my time creating content. Do you have thoughts on my experience? How have you seen storytelling change throughout the years? Comment below!

Valyn Reinig, Marketing Specialist

Valyn Reinig, Marketing Specialist

Valyn Reinig is the Marketing Specialist for ISE, using her creative expertise to help promote business growth, build relationships, and generate brand awareness. In her free time, Valyn can be found attending indie rock concerts, running 5k's, taking photos, and surfing the web for the greatest deals.