Storytelling is a cornerstone of how humans communicate with one another. This is true across all aspects of life, both in interpersonal and business relationships. Working from home adds a level of complexity to the traditional form of storytelling we are accustomed to. While facts and figures are important, and should be presented with your argument, you also will want your audience to emotionally connect with you, regardless if you are in person, on the phone, or doing a video chat. The most impactful way to do this is through a narrative. In fact, it was found that stories can be up to 22 times more memorable than facts alone, allowing your message to resonate with decision-makers on both intellectual and emotional levels, giving you an edge in your argument.
Breaking Down Persuasion Through Storytelling
We use persuasion every day, whether you are e-mailing a colleague, doing a video chat with decision-makers, phoning your significant other about dinner plans, or texting your realtor to negotiate on a price. We use persuasion in all forms of communication in both our personal lives and in business. Persuasion is a focus of many interactions. In fact, as far back as Aristotle, communicators have been breaking down a formula for persuasion. Aristotle noted five aspects of persuasion, all of which will take your storytelling to the next level:
Ethos: The character or credibility of the speaker. As a storyteller, you will want to set up why you are an expert in the subject matter, including your personal experiences and background.
Logos: The reason, or logical appeal. These are the facts and figures that back up and support your story. While the narrative is important, you still will want to include these important aspects of your argument.
Pathos: The emotion or connection you want others to feel. This is the purpose of the narrative or the story itself, and where the majority of your focus should be spent to establish a strong emotional connection for your audience.
Metaphor: This can be an incredibly useful device in your storytelling. By comparing a situation to something relatable and easy to visualize, your story will gain another layer in its persuasion.
Brevity: Make sure your story establishes the needed connection but be as brief as possible to hold your target’s attention for the entire message. If they start to tune out, you will lose the impact of your story.
Stories that Persuade
Storytelling is a persuasive addition to any business presentation. While many think business decisions are based on numbers, the truth is that most are made with emotion. What does that mean for business leaders, sales associates, marketing professionals, and lawyers? It means that those who base arguments solely on reason will fail at being persuasive, and those who make an emotional connection through storytelling will have a higher rate of success.
Persuasion methodology should be applied to storytelling, including audience research and uncovering pain points. You can see this throughout a variety of business communications, and it is easily spotted in marketing and branding. Here are a couple examples of persuasive storytelling from brands:
Budweiser: The beer maker created this unique ad for its “Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign. It created a story about a man and his dog. The man goes out for an evening of beer drinking with his friends, while the dog waits at home. Just when you think the owner has met an unfortunate fate due to drinking and driving, he walks through the door and apologizes to the dog, explaining he had to make a responsible decision. Budweiser could have flashed scary statistics about drunken-driving deaths across the screen, but took another approach. This is just one story of responsibility, but it is more powerful than a barrage of statistics and facts about drinking and driving.
Tesla: A luxury car brand, Tesla would not have surprised anyone by highlighting its sleek lines, leather interior, and smart-car features. However, a big portion of Tesla’s brand is its use of electricity to power cars. The brand embraced its sustainable message of clean energy and shared the story of one owner, John. Instead of talking about the pollution created by gas cars, they follow John on his commute to work and on vacation with his family. The ad even notes the company is expanding their charging network to make travel easier, addressing a direct pain point of electric car users.
At the End of the Story
Whether you are pitching new business, introducing a new product, persuading a jury of your client’s peers, or using persuasion in other aspects of life, don’t let the virtual form of your communication get in the way. Storytelling can be a powerful tool when used correctly. By establishing your credibility and connecting the facts and figures to a story that touches the decision-maker’s emotions, you’ll be far more successful at persuading than by using a logistical argument alone. As the number of people working from home grows, it’s important to remember to weave stories into your online presentations. Be sure to take full advantage of online tools such as videoconferences and slideshows to create an immersive story for your target audience.
Juliet Huck is the author of “The Equation of Persuasion” and founder of the Academy of Persuasion e-learning series. She has blazed a trail in the uncharted territory of “persuasive communications” for 25 years. Huck has been retained by some of the nation’s most prestigious organizations, corporations, and law firms and has assisted in moving billion-dollar projects forward, securing billions of dollars in decisions through her proven process. From the Enron Litigation to a billion-dollar Exxon project, she has been involved in the strategic development and visual communications for some of the corporate world’s largest projects to date, as well as the nation’s top high-profile and high-dollar exposure litigation.