When you really need to convince someone to buy what you’re selling (literally or figuratively), what’s your go-to strategy?
Hands down, the best way to persuade is through stories.
I hear what you’re thinking, “Hey, my topic or presentation isn’t a soft skill like networking or leadership, it is SERIOUS. I need to share a lot of data to be credible. My audience needs to hear every fact.”
You may itch to crush your prospect/audience/staff under a wall of facts, believing that you can force them into choosing your design, buying your product, voting for you, or following you, but when used alone, facts will fail.
Your brain craves stories
In Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, author Carmine Gallo analyzed more than 500 of the most popular TED (Technology, Education and Design) to determine what makes the most effective presentations so successful.
Here, he shares why telling stories is essential to persuading:
Bryan Stevenson, the speaker who earned the longest standing ovation in TED history spent 65 percent of his presentation telling stories. Brain scans reveal that stories stimulate and engage the human brain, helping the speaker connect with the audience and making it much more likely that the audience will agree with the speaker’s point of view.
(Bryan Stevenson, by the way, is a civil rights attorney who successfully argues cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. His topic – incarceration and capital punishment – is anything but “fluffy.”)
But the real question is, did Stevenson’s talk persuade someone to do something?
Yep. After his TED talk, viewers were so inspired, they donated a combined $1 million to his non-profit.
Bottom line: stories work.
Three kinds of stories
In Talk Like Ted, Gallo shares three kinds of stories that you can tell:
1. Personal stories
Stories about you. Things you’ve done. Experiences you’ve had and their effects on you. Challenges you’ve faced. Discoveries you’ve made.
2. Stories about other people
These can be stories from people you know, historical figures or people who’ve been affected by your topic. Share their struggle, what they overcame and how they did it.
3. Stories about brand success
Marketing expert Seth Godin and New York Times bestselling author, Malcolm Gladwell both tell brand stories brilliantly.
Gladwell’s TED talk on the nature of choice and happiness could been packed with a bunch of dry research stats. But would 4.7 million (yeah, I said million) people have watched it? Not a chance.
Instead, he wrapped his argument inside a story about spaghetti sauce. And it was deliciously fascinating.
Yes, you CAN use stories in serious, “boring” or technical industries
I met an architect recently who was vying to win a project designing a high-end nursing home complex. During the project interview, after his competitors had trotted out stats about how many architects they had on staff and the number of square feet of buildings they’d designed, Jay started off with a quiet statement:
“My mother is 79 years old.”
He paused, while every member of the selection committee stared at him, riveted.
Jay then told a two-minute passionate story about his family’s personal and emotional struggle with the idea of putting his mother into a nursing home. Through his story, he conveyed how deeply invested he was in creating a nurturing, safe and healthy environment that would appeal to the future occupants and their families.
Hearts + minds, won.
Your Fame Boosting Assignment:
When you’re getting ready for your next sales pitch, stage talk or team meeting, spice it up with a story or two. There’s magic in your mind…you just have to let it out.