Thursday, 4 December 2014

Getting sticker with telling stories

We humans love stories. While in general it doesn't matter if they are fact or fiction, if we want to use a story for learning, we are strongly biased to fact (my case study research shouted that one loud and clear).

Whenever we want to teach, to persuade or to change others, if we can tell a clear story within our pitch, we are much more likely to be successful. We will have a 'sticky' story: one that sticks in the memory of those who hear it. Green (2004) cites an Indian proverb “Tell me a fact and I'll learn. Tell me the truth and I'll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever” (p. 1).

On the HBR Blog, JD Schramm recently published some fantastic tips for creating a compelling and sticky story for your listeners. Here are five of them:
  • Parachute in. Drop your audience into the action straight away, capture their attention and detail what the lesson is later.
  • Use powerful startings & endings. We don't need to know our story verbatim, but "great leaders know the first and final words cold … and can deliver them without hesitation". Strong anchor brackets will aid the listener's recall.
  • Use the “Goldilocks” maxim. Test your story with others to check what is “just the right amount” of story to tell. Too much detail and your listener drowns, not enough and they don't get your message.
  • Use poetry. Using strong imagery, cadence and simplicity is much more punchy than something less well-crafted. It will take more time - you may well have read the Blaise Pascal quote, 1657, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead” (often mis-attributed to Mark Twain) - but it will be more effective.
  • Use silence. JD reminds us that composers place rests within scores for emphasis. Silence allows your listeners time to think. Silence allows "others to fill the void, adding their own interpretation and impact. [...] Limiting information engages the imagination" (May, 2014).
Let's be sticky out there.

Sam

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