Famous in your field tip: Want to convince people? Tell a story.

Want to convince people? Tell a story.

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.


  1. Kathleen Watson on July 14, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    Lori, I’ve always known stories were important, but you blew me away with your examples of just *how* important they are when it comes to connecting with our listeners. And the 9 recommendations Carmine Gallo makes are all straightforward and simple (although not necessarily easy) to apply.

    What a great resource article. Thanks!

  2. Cindy on July 14, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    Stories are powerful – “Hearts + minds, won.” The architect and his story made the emotional connection with his story – thanks for sharing a story to make your point!

  3. Bonnie Copeland on July 15, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    Stories are so powerful because we can relate to them. We see reflected in those, our own stories. It’s far more difficult to connect to a dry fact with our emotions isn’t it? This is filled with some really interesting points. I find it so fascinating that science is backing up with things like brain scans what some people have intuitively known for years.

  4. Lorraine on July 16, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Hands down stories rock and it really is so powerful especially with the connection piece. Thanks for this great read!

  5. Sarada Chaudhuri on July 17, 2014 at 6:53 am

    So true Lori!

    Thanks for this reminder – many times I forget, and fall into the trap of ‘they need hard facts’.

    But the truth is that people by from people, and need to make that emotional connection some way.

    And thanks for the ‘hard facts’ on the TED talks 🙂 – fascinating stuff!

  6. Sarah on July 17, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    I LOVE TED talks, and I can tell you do too! I know that stories are such a great way to engage people, and I need to get better at it in my own work. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. Laura Clark ~ Your Soul Wise Living Mentor on July 20, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Story Telling ~ my mentor Denise Linn of Soul Coaching™ fame ~ is one of the best. Possibly because her heritage is that of Native American Cherokee indians who are renowned for story telling!

    This is one area I need support in ~ i know this!!! I love listening but have not YET conquered good story telling!

  8. Frances Arnold on July 20, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    This is excellent reinforcement for the skill which I’m working on developing: story-telling. Nice reminder about weaving stories in and out of our dialog. Thanks!

  9. BizSugar.com on August 5, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    The one thing the most persuasive people all do

    When you’re getting ready for your next sales pitch, stage talk or team meeting, spice it up with a story or two. Here’s how and why telling stories is essential to persuading.

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