Want to be more effective communicator and persuader. Tell a story.
(November 30, 1825 – August 19, 1905)
The picture facing me when I wake each morning.
Which is easier to remember: statistics or a story? What tugs on your heart logic or a story?
Trying to convince people with logic is tough for two reasons. One is they are arguing with you in their heads while you are making your argument. Second, if you do succeed in persuading them, you’ve done so only on an intellectual basis. That’s not good enough, because people are not inspired to act by reason alone.I would add that stories that make an emotional connection that evoke adrenalin which sears memories into the bran. Facts, apart from a story, can be lost in an instant because they are not personal.
But there’s more proof of storytelling's effectiveness than just anecdotal evidence. For example, studies carried out by Melanie C. Green and Timothy C. Brock at Ohio State University have empirically shown that people’s beliefs can be swayed more effectively through storytelling than through logical arguments. The researchers posit that persuasion is most effective when people are "transported" to another place using a story.More accurately a story, told right, uses a combination of three types of Identification Techniques (physical, emotional & moral), that place the story listener INTO the story and more significantly into one or more character's minds, where the audience participates emphatically in the journey of the character. That is a literal "transportation" and allows the audience to EXPERIENCE the situation as if present in person. In other words, the story becomes a simulation of reality. Things are much easier to remember that way because "experience" is the best teacher.
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down to discuss this topic with Susan Fisher, a strategic communication expert and principal at First Class. “People are always telling stories; why don’t they do it at work?" asks Fisher. “It’s because they have been taught that at work you use logic and slides and statistics; this seems more professional. Telling stories seems too emotional and possibly manipulative. So people stick to facts and numbers. But the truth is that real emotions always work better, because that is the way to reach hearts and minds, and also people get to see the real you. It’s authentic.”Here then are Fisher's top ten list of being a good storyteller at work. These are right out of the screenwriter and director's handbook for making successful motion pictures, or writing engaging novels.
- Plan your story starting with the takeaway message. Think about what’s important to the audience. The ending is the most important point of the story. This is the message we want to deliver, and the one that will linger with the audience.
- Keep your stories short for the workplace. Three to five minutes long is about what people can digest in today’s ADD world.
- Good stories are about challenge or conflict. Without these elements, stories aren’t very interesting. The compelling part of a story is how people deal with conflict–-so start with the people and the conflict.
- Think about your story like a movie. Imagine you are screenwriter with a goal to get your message across. The story has to have a beginning, middle, and end.
- Start with a person and his challenge, and intensify human interest by adding descriptions of time, place, and people with their emotions.
- Be creative. Create a storyboard; draw it out, while listening to music or reading something for inspiration. A good story always has ups and downs, so "arc" the story. Pull people along, and introduce tension, just like in a fairy tale. (“From out of nowhere, the wolf jumps onto the path…”)
- Intensify the story with vivid language and intonation. Tap into people’s emotions with language. Use metaphors, idioms, and parables that have emotional associations. (Note: For more on this, see Leo Widrich’s article entitled, “Which Words Matter Most When You Talk” and studies on intonation performed by Ingrid Johnsrude at Cambridge University).
- When using a story in a PowerPoint presentation, use appropriate graphics/pictures to convey your message. Stay away from text and complicated graphics. A single picture interlaced with emotional language will go a long way to convey your message.
- Most of us have not told stories in front of an audience since English class in high school. So you will need to practice. Tell your story in front of a friendly audience and get feedback. Gauge your pace, and take note of the story’s length and your use of language. It will be a bit rusty at first, but underneath it all, we are all born storytellers.
- The most important point is to make the switch within; because once you internalize that today’s "left-brain" communication style doesn’t work very well and you realize that stories are how people really communicate, you will find it a lot easier to proceed…because it’s authentic. And that is what really persuades.
Fisher also recommends signing up for a storytelling workshop.Duh! I have a great suggestion....