Topic of the Month:
Storytelling as a Persuasion Tool
Getting Others to Take Action
If you want to get people to take action or make a decision, there is a huge difference between telling a story and giving them a boring powerpoint.
When we listen to a boring powerpoint presentation, certain areas in the brain get activated. Scientists call this area the Broca area and it’s the language processing part of the brain where we decode language into meaning. That’s it. Only the language decoding area activates.
But when we are told a story, every part of our brain activates as if we were actually experiencing the events in the story. If the story happens to be a food story where a delicious meal is served or made, our sensory cortex lights up. A story about motion sets off our motor cortex.
Stories make us feel, and feelings are a path to decision making. Stories grab our attention and allow us to be transported into another person’s experience. They accelerate interpersonal connections and capture and keep an audience’s attention.
Research Shows Storytelling Works
Uri Hasson from Princeton has shown that when we tell stories to others, the brains of the person telling the story and the person listening to the story can synchronize. When the storyteller’s emotional brain region lit up, so did the listener’s. By simply telling a story, we can plant ideas, thoughts, and emotions into the listener’s brains.
When I am speaking or doing training seminars, I tell stories that support the points I am making. These stories deepen and reinforce what I am saying, and research has shown that people remember stories long after the content has vanished from their minds.
So Why Don’t People Tell More Stories?
In Ovson’s presentation seminars, we hear reasons like:
I don’t know any stories
I can’t tell a story to save my life
I can’t match a story to my points
I am afraid I will go off on a tangent
I know stories are great, I just don’t think about it
We think stories are incredibly important, and we know from research that given statistics alone, people will retain only 10-15% of your information. Pair your stats with anecdotes and stories, and the retention rate moves to 65-75%.
3 Storytelling Strategies to Make You Persuasive
Here are a few things that will help make it easier to use stories and anecdotes to get an audience to think and feel and fully understand your point of view.
1. Keep a Story Log
Every experience you have is a likely story. The more experiences you have, the easier it becomes to find a story that fits your presentation. How did you overcome a challenge or adversity? Did you or someone you know show incredible patience? Or, had some bad experiences that you can turn into a lesson for others? Take an hour or so to write down some of your experiences. Keep in mind the obstacles and how you overcame them. These are stories that others love to hear. Once you have started writing them down, you’ll be surprised at how many stories you have to tell.
2. Follow a Good Story Structure
With a good structure it is easier to outline a story and make sure that it has all of the elements you need to positively affect the listener.
Define the purpose of the story.
What makes you want to tell this story to an audience? How does it connect them to your topic? Do you have a resolution that could benefit the listeners?
Make it personal.
Make sure the story involves you or someone that you feel connected with. Making it personal gets you involved, and, if you are involved, the listener will be involved.
Describe an adversity or conflict and how you dealt with it.
Your story and experience can pave the way for others to use your example to push through their challenges.
Create characters and imagery.
These elements from fiction writing help an audience visualize what you are seeing.
Make sure you have a clear beginning, middle, and end.
Create a beginning that grabs attention and flows easily into the core of the story. Follow that with an ending that clearly shows the action you took and refers back to the main topic.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice
Nothing is perfect, and we aren’t trying to be. In fact, the more you show vulnerability, the more people will listen to how you have overcome your challenges and struggles and the more they will relate to you. Everyone wants to climb the ladder of success and to hear a story of how you slipped and then pulled yourself up is not only satisfying to an audience but also highly motivating.
How To Get People On Board With Your Ideas And Projects
According to Uri Hassan, “A story is the only way to activate parts in the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience.” So, the next time you struggle with getting people to follow what you are saying, tell them a story where the outcome is what you had in mind as the best action to take. As Hassan says, “Storytelling is the only way to plant ideas into other people’s minds.”
Everyone can learn to tell stories. Follow the above strategies, and you’ll quickly be on your way to using storytelling as a persuasion tool.