The most powerful way to persuade people is to tell them a story they will remember and tell again. Here is how to do it:
* Passion: Start by asking “what do I really care most about?” If you are passionate about your new idea, product or service chances are the audience will catch your passion the same way they catch the flu. Passion is a contagion and it spreads quickly. Your passion needs to authentic. If the audience thinks your acting solely out of self interest-you’re done. * Hero: You are the hero. The hero’s job is to make the audience see what you see. Pull the audience into your world. Make them see your message from the inside out. Help them see it through your eyes and as if they were standing in your shoes. * Obstacle: Define clearly the obstacle or problem facing your audience? How does your new idea help them overcome it? You and your new idea are the hero, mounted on a great white steed. , You have a lance in your hand and you’re charging ahead to slay the dragon. Before you charge make sure that you and your audience share the same dragon. Ask yourself “what is the dragon that keep me up at night?” does it keep my audience up as well? If you can slay that dragon you’re on your way to success. * Awareness: Does your idea bring something new to solving the audience’s problem? What insights are imbedded in your message? What lessons can the audience take away and use again? Does your audience nod in agreement as you discuss your solutions or do they remain stone silent? * Transformation: How will your idea change the audience for the better? How will they be different by using your idea? What is transformational about your message?
The more you can turn your message into a story the more likely your message will succeed. Successful stories make an audience feel as well as think. This is crucial because as neuroscience has discovered; stories are easier to recall than facts alone because they implant themselves in our memory.
I just got off the phone with Gary an unhappy friend of mine. He heads up a cutting edge architectural firm. He was disappointed to learn that his hand picked team just lost a big account, which they thought was in the bag. Gary was granted a rare postmortem. The corporate reps said they really liked his designs. However they went with his competitor because they were blown away by their presentation. “Your team appeared clunky and awkward. They gave us lots of data but no story. When the other team presented they were having fun. They were graceful and they made us feels like we were involved in a beautiful ballet.” This is rare and invaluable feedback only given because Gary’s firm is held in high esteem. What are the jewels of wisdom to be recovered from the mud of defeat?
I know the members of Gary’s team. They’re all bright creative people and they work damn hard. All their effort was fruitless because they were doing what they had been taught to do in school. Gary’s team was presenting a clear and logical thinking path without emotionally engaging their audience. Facts became weights around their necks. The more they struggled to be rational, the deeper they sank. What they had failed to do was to know and move their audience.
Great presenters study audiences. They understand what audiences want. What they want is what we all want; to be surprised; to be transported into another world. Successful presenters create an emotionally charged community where presenter and audience share a common experience. Facts alone can never transport an audience into the heart of the story. Passion and vitality are the keys to the kingdom. The word emotion comes from Latin and it means “To stir up and to move” which is exactly what Gary’s team must learn to do in order to win the next account.
This week is the twentieth anniversary of Tiananmen Square. For five weeks students from many Chinese Universities had collected in Tiananmen Square. They were peacefully demanding more human rights. The protests had been going on for over five weeks. The Chinese Government grew afraid they were loosing control. On the evening of June 3ed 1989 Chinese officials sent in tanks and personal carriers. They broke up the protest by crushing and shooting students in their sleep. The next morning the Square was empty. The only thing that remained were the tanks. As they were attempting to move back to their base a lone man, carrying two shopping bags appeared in the middle of the road and blocked the tanks. People on the scene were sure he would be killed. Yet as mysteriously as he appeared he suddenly melted into the crowd and to this day he has never been identified.. Fortunately his courageous actions were recorded by journalists and what emerged is one of the most powerful and iconic pictures of the twentieth century. The picture is known as “Tank Man” and it has been reproduced millions of times around the world. This picture has been reported to change countless lives by inspiring others to take courageous actions. It inspired students in East Berlin to begin to destroy the Berlin Wall. . What are the essential qualities that all heroes both real and fictional share? Heroes provide the audience with a clear point of view. In other words they take a stand. Or they expand their territory. Churchill took a stand against Hitler in 1939 when many other ministers wanted only to placate Germany. It was no accident that soon after taking his stand Churchill became Prime Minister. Another universal quality is that a hero’s actions are not primarily motivated by self interest. Joseph Campbell has said, “When we stop thinking primarily of ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness” (1948).
People don’t have to do spectacular things to be heroic. A close friend of mine is an example of an everyday hero. She works in the field of mental health. Everyday she faces frightened and angry patients, who can act in ways that make themselves and others miserable and ill. Facing that audience everyday and moving these people into a healthier way of life is heroic. My friend is acquiring the ability to gently hold her ground as she guides patients toward greater self understanding and compassion. This is what true heroes do they help us remember what’s good about being alive and their actions point the way.