We had been in a meeting for over eight hours, with lots of reports and statistics. We were addressing how we could motivate employees, when an employee came in and shared a story that packed more motivational punch than any of our statistical regurgitations.
He shared the story of a man that had worked with our company for years and had experienced a stroke. He was too proud to tell people, but medical bills has forced him to sell his home. He and his wife were staying in a hotel. When people in his division found out about the situation, a rental home was offered with no rent due for two years. People offered money, utilities were paid, and gas cards provided.
That story made everybody look up from their reports and discussions about productivity. Suddenly productivity had a face, and there was human need behind it. People were literally wiping tears away, and talking about how much they loved the spirit of the people that made up their company.
One story reminded us of our humanity, and our hearts became part of the conversational equation.
Author Annette Simmons says it best when she says: Story doesn’t grab power. Story creates power.
The general presentation method these days is to scream or totally shock the listener. These methods provide a faux power surge. People look up briefly, but then realize it’s a ruse and go to the next entertaining moment which just might be on their Blackberry.
Stories have a way of conveying the truth through a venue that is accepted. As Annette Simmons says: Story is less direct, more gracious, and prompts less resistance. The truth is right out there, and yet, because the truth is clothed in a story, they let it in.
Presentations rarely change minds, but stories do. Here are some general guidelines:
1. Don’t offer a story that would only work for you in your situation. People value their conclusions over yours. The story must feel real to them personally.
2. People will believe your story if they trust you. Make sure they know who you are and why you’re willing to share this story.
3. Make sure the story is real. It doesn’t have to be your personal story, but it has to be one you believe. If you fabricate a story to manipulate the audience, they will know it. If your story touches your heart as you tell it, then there’s a good chance it will touch the listener’s heart as well.
Genuine influence goes deeper than someone doing something because you told them to. Real change occurs when the listener picks up where you verbally left off because they believe in what you just said. Next time you want to yell out a point so people will hear it, try dressing it in a story. You’ll see an incredible difference.
Another great book by Annette Simmons: