Every decision we make is influenced by stories. Choices as varied as the book we select to read, the films and series we see, our decision to get or not get vaccinated and the nonprofit we volunteer for are all based on stories – stories we heard or read, stories we believed in, stories we tell ourselves.

Stories are one of the most powerful persuasion mechanisms. When we want to effectively express our opinion for an issue and advocate for it, narrative is undoubtedly the right path to follow.

What does it take to tell an effective story that “gets through” to the audience and gets the message across? Let us focus on four points that contribute significantly to persuasion:

A clear message: A persuasive story doesn’t only need a specific subject. It also has to have a clear message that can give the audience direction on what to think, how to interpret things, and how to act. Effective stories don’t just present a point of view. They promote a specific message.

A good example: Humans learn by example, and stories over time have been instrumental in teaching us what to do as well as what to avoid. The example of someone who followed what we stand for and succeeded, as well as of someone who disregarded advice and failed, are very powerful in shaping an opinion or point of view. Real examples are certainly the most effective.

Passion: No exaggeration is needed, but some enthusiasm is necessary in order to seduce our audience. Our selection of words, tone of voice, pauses or gestures in an oral presentation enhance our words and help our audience to focus on what we are saying.

Supporting data: Data are not without value when we choose storytelling. We can integrate them in our narrative or keep them at the beginning or end – not on their own, but to further support an argument.

Stories have tremendous power when used wisely. To enhance their power, we need to invest in two core elements of any good story: emotion, which facilitates an immediate and authentic connection, and the relevance of the topic to the interests and priorities of each audience. A topic that relates to the audience, interesting characters and a context that triggers emotion are the most effective recipe for persuasive storytelling.

March 8, 2023

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