The power of immersion

Earlier this week, I attended the Game of Thrones concert experience.

The show was quite a spectacle, with characters and crucial scenes from all seasons displayed on a giant screen. A live orchestra, led by Ramin Djawadi, played the background score in perfect sync with the visuals. The show featured a levitating violinist, large flamethrowers and 14 foot-long musical instruments among other shiny things.

But what struck me the most was that despite not having watched a single episode of GoT, I was immersed in the experience. Several times, I had to bring myself to realize that a live orchestra was playing before us. The visuals were so perfectly in sync with the music.

Game of Thrones is a modern day epic, and like every other epic before it, it is foremost a great story. Great storytelling is hardwired into human evolution. Thousands of years ago, it inspired us to explore new continents and fight religious wars (which it continues to do). Today, it is used by teachers, bankers, consultants, product managers and hundreds of other professionals as a source of powerful influence.

But not all stories are equally influential. It is ones that are most immersive – ones where the listeners lose themselves in the story, that command the greatest influence. To be immersed is to read a novel and have the walls around you in the real world melt away. To watch a movie and know a character so well in 90 mins, as to shed a tear for him. Or to experience a performance so well synchronized, that a live orchestra keeps disappearing right in front of us.

If story-telling is the recipe for influencing our beliefs, immersion is the secret sauce.

Further reading: David McCrany’s interview with Dr. Melanie Green

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