Storytelling is a cornerstone of human communication. This is true across all aspects of life, in both interpersonal and business relationships.
Working from home adds a level of complexity to the traditional forms of storytelling we are accustomed to. While facts and figures are important for any pitch, you also want your audience to emotionally connect with you, regardless of whether you are meeting in person, on the phone, or via video chat. The most impactful way to build that connection is through narrative.
In fact, stories can be 22 times more memorable than facts alone. When you incorporate stories into your presentations and conversations, your message resonates with decision-makers on both intellectual and emotional levels, giving you an edge in persuading them.
Persuasion Through Storytelling
You use persuasion every day, whether you’re emailing a colleague, doing a video chat with decision-makers, phoning your significant other about dinner plans, or texting your realtor to negotiate a price. Given that persuasion is so pervasive in all forms of communication, it’s no surprise that people have been chasing after the formula for effective persuasion for thousands of years.
In fact, as far back as the fourth century BCE, Aristotle himself was theorizing about the elements of persuasion. In his view, there are five key aspects of persuasion — and they can still be useful to you today:
- Ethos: the character or credibility of the speaker. As a storyteller, you want to show your audience why you are an expert in the subject matter. That may include sharing your personal experiences and background.
- Logos: the reason or logical appeal. These are the facts and figures that support your story. While narrative is important, it’s even stronger when bolstered by reason.
- Pathos: the emotion you want others to feel. Building an emotional connection is the purpose of the story itself, so pathos is where the majority of your focus should be.
- Metaphor: comparing a situation to something relatable and easy to visualize. This can be an incredibly useful device in your storytelling, as it adds another layer of connection for your audience.
- Brevity: the succinctness of your message. To be most effective, your story should establish emotional connection in as brief a time as possible. This ensures you hold your audience’s attention for the duration. If they start to tune out, your story will lose its impact.
Stories That Persuade
While many think that business decisions are always based on numbers and logic, the truth is that most are made with emotion. That means business leaders, sales associates, and marketers who base their arguments solely on reason will fail at being persuasive, while those who establish emotional connections through storytelling will have higher rates of success.
You can see persuasion methodology applied throughout a variety of business communications, and it is easily spotted in some of the most successful marketing and branding initiatives. Here are just a couple examples:
The beer giant created a unique ad for its “Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign, which tells the story of a man and his dog. The man goes out for an evening of 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 that he had to make a responsible decision.
Budweiser could have flashed scary statistics about drunk-driving deaths across the screen, but this small story of responsibility has a much more powerful impact on the audience because it creates a real emotional connection.
Luxury car brand Tesla would not have surprised anyone with an ad highlighting its sleek lines, leather interiors, and smart-car features. However, Tesla is also known for producing electric cars, and the brand embraced its sustainable message of clean energy by sharing the story of one Tesla owner, John.
Instead of talking about the pollution created by gas cars, the ad follows John on his commute to work and on vacation with his family. The ad notes that Tesla is expanding its 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, or using persuasion in everyday life, you don’t need to let our new virtual world of work get in your way. All you have to do is incorporate storytelling into your conversation.
By establishing your credibility and connecting facts and figures to a story that touches the decision-maker’s emotions, you’ll get further than you would by relying on logic alone. Be sure to take full advantage of the online tools we all use now — such as video conferences and slideshows — to create an immersive story for your target.
Juliet Huck is founder of the Academy of Persuasion.