3. The Impact of Storytelling
Over the course of “Our Amazing Oceans” webinar series, I learned that the best webinars place the audience squarely in panelists’ research ships, submarines and dive expeditions.
Gripping stories made it easier for attendees to understand the crux of the sometimes complex science and policy that were at the heart of the webinars. Dr. Dave Wiley’s narrative-driven explanation of his research on Humpback whales and sand lance in the Gulf of Maine (as seen in our “Global Warming in the Gulf of Maine” webinar) is a perfect example. He shared a story about tagging humpback whales, then used the information they collected to shape an understanding of the daily swimming and feeding habits of the whales. When paired with story, the graphs on-screen made sense.
In our “Right Whale Road Show” webinar, a story about the experience of performing a necropsy on a right whale that washed ashore inspired a wave of post-webinar outreach. In both instances, audience members followed up with emails. They asked for recordings of the webinar. They also shared actions they had taken, and expressed an interest in learning more about ways to get involved.
This experience is in line with what research has shown about communications around science and policy: Dully reciting facts about the ocean alone can alienate viewers. Instead, stories capture our memories more effectively. That’s why visits to the ocean can often catalyze action. On the beach, people make their own stories, which can stick with them for a lifetime. Whales breach, gulls steal sandwiches and seals pop their sleek heads out of water. These sights often inspire a sense of wonder at the ocean -- and curiosity about the amazing animals that swim in its depths. Our best webinars foster the same sense of wonder by using stories to recreate that in-person ocean experience.
The process of growing a lasting movement to protect our oceans can seem daunting. But recognizing the parallels between my own experiences at the beach and successful ocean webinars show that interpersonal connection, discussion and engagement grow naturally out of a love for the sea and everything it holds. After these webinars, I now see my job as an organizer a little differently. One of my goals now is to find ways to replicate the interpersonal connection, sense of community, and wonder many find on the beach in power-building environments such as webinars, phone-banks and events.