Despite all the new communication technology we have available to us, face-to-face communication and storytelling are still the most powerful methods we have of communicating, engaging and persuading our audiences. That has been true since the dawn of humans and it is true today.
Why are face-to-face stories so powerful? Because compelling data can make us think, but it is storytelling that makes us feel. Facts and figures are important to make certain points and bolster our credibility, but stories create an emotional bond. And it is emotion that drives us to get off our butts and take action. A compelling story combined with supporting data is a powerful one-two punch.
Telling the stories about your business can have a powerful effect on your customers, employees, shareholders, community leaders and others.
I once saw the Chairman of the Board of PetSmart move a group of store directors to tears when he told stories of how the company was disappointing customers over and over again due to the poor layout of the stores. He made a solid case for changing the store format using sales figures, but it was the storytelling that moved the store directors to embrace the proposed changes and to take immediate action.
In another example, I helped develop an employee safety communications program for Phelps Dodge Mining Company, which at the time was the largest copper mining company in the world. The company was able to present lots of statistics to make the case for following safe work practices, but it was the story a widow told about the tragic accident that took her husband’s life that made the biggest impact on the miners. Her story stuck with them longer than any statistic could.
We’ve seen this played out over and over throughout history. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech fueled a movement but it contained no statistics to make his case. Instead, he painted powerful pictures in the minds of his audience using colorful metaphors and stories that still resonate today.
In public speaking and business presentations, it’s important to remember that facts and figures feed our brains but it is stories that feed our souls. So speak about your passions and speak from your heart. If you speak to your audience from your heart, there’s a good chance they’ll listen with theirs.
Before launching his own company, Paul had a successful 20-year career leading communications teams at six fast-growing Fortune 500 corporations. Those experiences led him to write what is now the No. 1 book on employee communication on Amazon.
Paul is a top-rated adjunct instructor teaching public speaking and he is an accredited member of the International Association of Business Communicators. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Iowa State University and a Master’s degree in Communication from Hawaii Pacific University.