Okay, you may ask yourself: these people at SOAP are always talking about “Story.” So what is the big deal?
Well, for one thing, it’s been proven that the human brain is more receptive to stories than to lists of facts, bunches of data and the reports that drown us at most presentations. In fact, research tells us that a story has a strong impact on its audience. The main reason for this to happen is that a story brings up emotion (of many different natures, good or bad, but emotion). And so story is a powerful tool for engaging and winning over audiences, regardless of their profiles and backgrounds.
While in business presentations stories can’t replace the important nuts-and-bolts data, they can serve as a background or framework for the presentation of that data. There is a far greater chance for information retention when it’s communicated in a larger context in ways that touch on audience members’ emotions and impress upon the audience the relevance and importance of what’s being presented.
An example? Imagine a bank director who needs the managers to improve customer service. The options for getting this done:
Option 1 – Provide hard data: The director can simply present a multitude of charts and tables on the subject that show the solid results of good customer service.
Option 2 – Tell a story: The director can tell the story of another manager who, by improving customer service practices, leveraged the customer base and so grew sales while also being acknowledged for his/her effort and seeing the professional and personal benefits that come from such acknowledgement.
Clearly the advantage of Option 2 is that instead of showing the managers a bunch of numbers, the director chose to tell a story that would hit home. The managers listened to the story and identified with the emotionally charged context, realizing the benefits that could accrue from a change in behavior. And with that the chances of the managers embracing the proposed new customer service guidelines increased substantially.
The message of this blog post seems obvious (we are always talking about how stories are important), but sometime the obvious is forgotten on our daily routines. So the next time you plan a presentation, don’t forget to tell a story in order to frame your message. Those who hear your presentation will remember that story long after they’ve forgotten all the drab facts and figures, and your message will be recalled long after the presentation is over.