Think for a moment about the next important business discussion you’ll be having. This conversation has the potential to move your organization forward. It might be a presentation to your board, a sales call with a customer, or an internal staff meeting. You’ve prepared yourself well with resources like reports, demonstration products, handouts, and power point slides.
But wait, do you have a story planned?
Although you may have spent many hours building your case, research and experience tell us that well-crafted logical arguments and iron-clad facts are unlikely to be memorable or motivating. The meeting that is so important to you is probably just one interaction in a series of dozens that your board, customer or staff will be having this busy week. And next week. And so forth… The avalanche of information has become overwhelming.
Even if your counterparts could remember all the data you share, they may have counter-arguments and contrary agendas. Their own pre-conceived stories will beat your facts every time! A Dartmouth study revealed that being shown clear factual counter-evidence about controversial topics made people dig their heels in harder! Data isn’t motivating, and can even be counter-productive, because people tend to make decisions emotionally then back it up only with information that reinforces that position. If you’re married, you might be nodding your head in agreement right now.
Stories offer a solution to the data dilemma. Hundreds of studies have shown that stories are the most effective way to communicate information and inspire action. The data is telling us that data isn’t as compelling as a story can be. Ironic, eh? Human minds are wired to organize and affirm ideas that are presented in story structure much more easily than unfamiliar raw data.
Imagine that next important business conversation you’ll be having. Don’t neglect your data homework, but consider a story, too. Stories are simply too powerful a communication tool to leave to chance. What’s your plan for the strategic use of stories that will connect everyone? Ask yourself a few questions:
What’s your goal for the meeting?
Do you have a plan to structure a story to achieve that goal?
How will you engage the audience and listen to their stories?
Strategy Fish Illustration courtesy of Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig, HikingArtist.com