As I pointed out in in last February’s post Use Storytelling to Persuade Your Audience to Take Action, despite the apparent fascination with communicating in sound bites and 140-character Tweets, human beings continue to love and be fascinated by stories. Stories capture our attention by evoking memories, stirring feelings and establishing an emotional bond with the story’s main character and the storyteller.
In her book The Story Factor author Annette Simmons explains that in the world of business stories help deliver information, direction and inspiration in a far more persuasive manner than arguments based on pure logic. She maintains that when we seek to influence or convince our audience with cold, hard facts and figures, we are implementing a “push” strategy, which can easily trigger some form of antagonistic retort. She defines storytelling instead as a “pull” strategy, one that doesn’t alienate listeners but rather lures them into the conversation.
Everyday interaction with clients and prospects provides financial advisers with abundant material for storytelling. Think about all the conversations you have with families seeking to get out of debt or buy their first house, individuals dreaming of launching their own business, parents wanting to give to their children a superior education. These are real examples of human challenges and struggles that your audience can easily relate to. Most important, real life cases make them pause to think and reflect and, ultimately, help them find an answer to their most immediate challenges, or just give them hope.
So, what are some of the most common elements of good storytelling? Here are a few:
Keep It Simple
Good storytellers are pros at making their accounts easy to understand by employing the same language that their audiences speak. This prevents listeners from experiencing distractions arising from pausing to process unfamiliar terms. Effective narrators begin their accounts portraying the challenge that the story’s hero faces. Then they move to describe the attempt(s) made to solve the issue and bring it to a close explaining when and how the problem was successfully addressed.
Short and to the Point
People have limited attention spans. Ergo, you should tell your story as rapidly as possible and make your relevant points as soon as you can. The story you decide to tell need not to be lengthy, overflowing with details. When picking a specific story, make sure it has an emotional component, be it humor, pathos or joy. However, do not struggle to make it overly funny or intersperse it with humor. Ultimately, you are not trying to amuse your audience. Rather, you want to convey some valuable information that will spark in your audience’s brain memories and emotions that would help them connect with you.
Keep It Real
The best stories are those that the narrator has experienced firsthand. Your story should contain aspects that your audience can swiftly relate to. For example, an audience comprised of entrepreneurs will likely be engaged and better respond to a story that involves entrepreneurs rather than college teachers.
Stick to the Beginning-Middle-End Format
Make sure your story adheres to this easy-to-implement structure. Seek to establish a strong opening (beginning) to set the tone and introduce the character(s). Use the middle part to clearly articulate the key problem(s) and conflict(s) that the hero of the story faced prior to finding the appropriate solution. Then, continue your narrative taking the audience to the end of the story. Once your account is over, do not rush to take questions, instead take a pause. It will help your audience to reflect on your words and build a stronger emotional connection with the main character or topic of the story.
A simple, well-narrated and persuasive story is one of the most powerful and effective means of engaging your audience. Ultimately, we are beasts of emotion more than logic. We love to tell and hear stories. Consequently, even the most email and text message addicted client or prospect will find the time and appreciate a concise and well-told story.
Claudio O. Pannunzio
President and Founder