I attended a seminar once with several high-level leaders speaking on influence. They were to share how they achieved good sales results. I had my little notebook ready, my pen poised to jot down great thoughts, and my mental adrenaline charged and ready for inspiration.
After the first speaker spent ten minutes describing his change model, I found myself drawing a cartoon elephant on my notebook page (the cartoon my friend Victoria Rojas taught me to draw in sixth grade). After painfully enduring the thirty-page, fact-filled PowerPoint presentation of speaker two, my elephant was now basking in a nice sun and has some little ant friends. The third speaker was in dire need of some very strong coffee and seemed confused by his own statistics. Now my elephant was surrounded by grass, a tree, and some very nice flowers.
All was not lost, I did have this nice little picture for my refridgerator, and I learned several important lessons about influence:
1. Facts are boring, especially self-promoting facts.
Don’t: “I was asked to speak to you today about how I’ve had this great success. Well, let me first show you the analysis we used to get started” (Zzzzzzz. . . .)
Do: “I want to tell you a story about one of the employees that made our initiative work. Her name is Lindsay Woods, and she embodies everything that I believe was key in the successful roll-out of this initiative . . .”
2. Stories about people in the trenches add credibility and passion.
Don’t: “We spent months gathering the necessary data to determine what to do first. . .”
Do: “The story of our success begins with the people that made it work every single day. I wasn’t on the line, but I did talk to those who were and their stories are amazing . . .”
3. Stories rule, excessive data can cause you to drool.
Don’t “You can see on our chart that 20% of our customers felt valued by our company. This was a lower statistic than we were hoping for.”
Do: “We found that 80 out of 100 customers felt they weren’t valued by our company. One is a customer named Annabelle Smith. She’s 75 years-old, and told us that one day she needed help reaching a certain product. She said no one would make eye contact with her, and one gentleman walked right past her in the aisle without offering any help. She left our store without her groceries, because she didn’t feel like a truly valued customer. That’s why we decided to change.”
Bottom-line: If you want to move an audience you must connect with them first. Stories fill in the emotion behind the facts. Why do stories work? Because our lives are stories. We want to know that every person matters, because we want to know that we matter. Want to convince? You must first connect!