Hospitality Industry
3 min read

Why storytelling is a crucial hospitality skill

Daniel Ciapponi
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Storytelling skills can create the unique magic and authenticity of exclusive hospitality events. But what power does storytelling have in itself and how can it be used to entertain and retain guests in general? Why is storytelling the hospitality capability of the future?

Stories can be told by anyone: Content is king

When we look back on an ancient tradition of listening to stories, witches, minstrels or troubadours presented their hard-earned wealth of experience, created myths, conveyed knowledge and established a connection between yesterday and tomorrow. Today each one of us is a storyteller and media producer, among other things because of all the possibilities of social media. In this day and age, content is king.

In the future, potential guests will increasingly feel the need for an experienceable story. Therefore, the event itself must become one. The gastronomy of the future should generate sensual experiences and tell stories. More than 70% of the guests believe that the story behind authentic food is important. Guests want to be inspired and excited by products, ingredients or stories.

"A more conscious use of storytelling will certainly gain in importance. I am convinced that stories have always played an important role. When I stay at the "best hotel in St. Moritz", it's already very effective storytelling. And when, for example, I get Brigitte Bardot's favorite dish served there, then even more so. It needs an interest in the special features of a place, a community, and environment to develop unique and authentic stories."

Felix Benesch, Theater Director

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The power of Storytelling

Good stories trigger emotions, the messages arrive directly in the brain and remain in the memory. Storytelling makes it possible to package complex messages or corporate values into interactive communication channels in an attractive and memorable way. If the storytelling is extended and included in events, services and products, the guest will be involved on an emotional level.

One of the reasons why novels and films are appealing stems from the fact that they contain a beginning, a middle and an end. Any conference presentation which merely presents static facts will ultimately detract from the experience of the recipient. This is the reason why many social psychologists have embraced the concept of storytelling. Participants will remain interested, and relevant stories can even enable them to feel as if they are a part of the outcome. If too fictional or outlandish, tales may only serve to alienate an audience. This is the reason why a careful balance needs to be struck between entertainment and authenticity.

Content management: 5 factors for good storytelling

Good storytelling is characterized by the following five building blocks:

  1. Use a synoptic brand
    People want soulful things and experiences. It is important to them to understand the why, the what and the values around the product. Thus the vision and the values behind a brand shape the storyline.
  2. Create identification
    Stories offer the audience elements of identification. Visual stories - films, but also graphics, illustrations and photos - deliver points of reference to identify and therefore "like" and "share".
  3. Offer exciting new perspectives
    Good stories succeed in showing interesting new perspectives and insights. "Inspire, don't inform", these narrative elements offer customers added value and encourage them to discover more themselves.
  4. Become emotional
    Visual stories awaken empathy because they appeal to several senses. Thanks to good stories, the brand can be presented more "humanely" and with an own brand personality. Astonishment and emotions can retain customers over the long term.
  5. Transmedial narration
    New media channels and sources enable new formats. It's crucial, therefore, that content should be passed on easily and is "atomizable".

Integration of storytelling into the teaching of hospitality students

Why does it make sense to teach students storytelling? What is the relevance of storytelling for hospitality? Today's guest in an emotionalized society is constantly on the lookout for new experiences and his or her personal feel-good factor. To create emotional and unique events and services, the hotel and restaurant employees need new skills. This approach follows the Affective Hospitality vision of the EHL Swiss School of Tourism and Hospitality (EHL SSTH), which is about creating emotional experiences.

One example is the “Flying Cow” event at the EHL SSTH Hotel Management School, where everyone - from the organizers, students and choir members to the guest - becomes part of the experience and a storyteller. Choir singing, storytelling and theater combine with selected delicacies to create an experience that appeals to all the senses of the guest.

"I particularly enjoy combining narrative tricks from this world with theatre, music and, in our case, culinary art and applying them in a completely new way. When everything plays together optimally, the viewer's imagination creates a film that is richer, crazier and perhaps even more spectacular than any cinema production." Felix Benesch, Theater Director

The effect of these multi-sensual experiences and the emotions associated with them determine the expectations and experiences of the guests. An innovative approach in hospitality education to meet the needs of guests in a constant search for the latest wow factor and to inspire them.

 
Written by

Senior Lecturer at EHL Passugg

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