Newsletter #432 – Connecting and Persuading Through Stories

Many speakers and listeners know that stories captivate interest and stimulate action more effectively than facts and “data dumps” from word dominated slides. That’s a message of a story-filled book published last month by Peter Guber, former CEO at Sony Pictures and producer of several Oscar winning movies. Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story “masterfully demonstrates how telling purposeful stories is the best way to persuade, motivate, and convince others” of a message. Gruber’s stories from famous people demonstrate how and when stories can be effective. Written as a business book, the principles apply equally to therapists, pastors, coaches, sales people, career builders and even job-seekers. How then do we craft and use good stories?

  • Be authentic. This builds trust; artificiality and phoniness are trust killers.
  • Learn about your audience even before you tell your story. Show that you are interested in them.
  • Determine the story’s purpose. What do you want to accomplish by telling your story?
  • Ponder the building blocks of all compelling stories (including movies):

–          Challenge. Get your listeners’ attention with an unexpected challenge or statement. This can be a situation that someone (perhaps even the story-teller) experienced.

–          Struggle. Give listeners an emotional experience by describing, surprising or engaging them around the struggle to overcome the challenge and find an answer to the opening question. “Nothing grabs attention faster than the need to know what happens next.”

–          Resolution. Galvanize a response by giving an eye-opening resolution that motivates and calls listeners to action.

  • Stories fall flat if they fail to inspire or motivate listeners to change their thinking or to take action as a result of the story. The goal is to move people with the story.
  • Include heroes, drama, and sometimes a “eureka moment” when your listener “experiences the same thrilling charge of emotion, purpose, and meaning that you felt when you experienced” some insight or epiphany.
  • Purposeful stories contain information, ideas, and values that the teller slips inside to reach the listener’s heart and mind.

What have you learned about telling stories to bring change in others? Please comment.

  1. Outstanding summary and application. The old business adage is true: Facts tell, stories sell. As a minister and speaker to men I’ve updated it: Facts inform, stories transform.

    • I love this and I will remember and share it: Facts inform, stories (and often images and the personhood of the communicator) transform.

    • Michael Sawyer
    • April 21st, 2011

    I like Craig’s comment about facts and stories….inform and transform…that’s right on the mark. There’s a reason that Jesus used healing and stories to bring change to people’s lives.

    On being authentic, the most ineffective speakers I’ve heard are generally those who talk about themselves. Except to illustrate a challenge or problem, I’ve learned that, when speaking to men, they want someone to be honest and strip away the veneer of “I’ve got it all figured out” and just be….well…real. Authenticity is an absolutely critical issue or nothing works.

    “It’s not about me” is a really good rule of thumb for life and for speaking.

  2. I agree, Michael. Authenticity is most powerful when it reveals a journey with struggles and failure that the audience can relate to.

    • I completely agree. And this applies to more than men. The communicator’s honesty and authenticity applies to younger audiences especially well. Also, if done with sensitivity, this applies to international audiences as well – especially in countries where they don’t expect authenticity from speakers.

  3. A good reminder for me to tell more (true) stories.
    Thanks Gary,

    • A COMMENT AND EXPLANATION TO EVERYBODY WHO HAS RESPONDED TO MY BLOG/NEWSLETTER POSTS IN APRIL: Almost a month passed without any comments from me on my own blog. The reason: I have been out of the country for most of the month, away from consistently reliable Internet connection. I was able to send out the last four posts (thanks to the help of a friend) but have not been able to respond until now. So once again I am able to able to read, ponder, and in many cases respond to what you have sent. Thanks!

  4. I’m not sure why but this blog is loading extremely slow for me. Is anyone else having this problem or is it a problem on my end? I’ll check
    back later and see if the problem still exists.

    • Thanks for your comment. I have not heard of others having this problem. Is your computer updated enough to download the images?

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