Use Storytelling to Persuade Your Audience to Take Action

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Fast, brief and information-rich seem to have become the key attributes of our daily communication.

Although we are growing accustomed to this new communication paradigm, we need to remember that for more than 27,000 years—from the time of the first cave paintings—telling stories has been one of humanity’s most fundamental communication methods to build relationships, inform and engage listeners.

Despite the ongoing romance with sound bites and 140-character max Tweets, human beings continue to love and be fascinated by stories. Stories capture listeners’ attention by evoking memories, stirring feelings and establishing an emotional bond with the storyteller.

In his book The Leaders’ Guide to Storytelling, Stephen Denning states: “Asking people to stop doing the things they know and love doing things they don’t know much about amounts to asking them to accept new identities. The usual result? Skepticism. Hostility. Sitting on the fence. Anything but enthusiastic implementation. Telling stories, however, can get people out of a negative cycle by helping them see alternative approaches.”

But what does this have to do with your business? In two words: stories sell. Major brands use the emotional response of their audiences to storytelling to achieve their vision, goals and conquer market share. Their shift from just broadcasting messages to storytelling has become a crucial element of their success. They have realized that their brand is not an abstract philosophical concept, but rather an enduring account of multiple emotional experiences that their audiences sense when thinking or coming in contact with a company’s products or services.

Storytelling is a powerful tool that can empower advisers to better promote their expertise, recommendations, and educate their audiences to implement judicious decisions. Despite the growing fascination with swift communication, today like in the past, audiences declare that a well-told story is what captures their attention and, ultimately, exercises an impact on their selection of a particular product or service over another.

But why should advisers embrace storytelling? According to Uri Hasson, professor of psychology at Princeton University, “A story has the power to activate parts in the brain that lead the listener to turn the story into their own idea and experience.”

Stories help us establish an emotional connection to the main character or topic and, ultimately, connections lead to loyalty.

In a post on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, Paul Zak, a professor at Claremont Graduate University and President of Ofactor Inc., reveals how recent scientific work is putting a much stronger emphasis on how stories change individuals’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.

In his post, Zak explains that as social creatures, we depend on others for our survival and happiness. A decade ago, his team discovered that a neurochemical called oxytocin is a key “it’s safe to approach others” signal in the brain. Oxytocin is produced when we are trusted or shown a kindness, and it stimulates cooperation with others.

Undoubtedly, good stories inspire and motivate us all. Storytelling is important to the success of a financial adviser, due to its powerful inherent connection-loyalty and trust-building attributes. Ultimately, we are beasts of emotion more than logic. We love to tell and hear stories. So, for an adviser, the journey to effectively engage, influence and persuade an audience must begin with “Once upon a time.”

In a future blog, I will share some guidelines and techniques for effective storytelling. Meanwhile, questions or sharing experiences with storytelling are as always welcome.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio Pannunzio
i-Impact Group Inc.
Greenwich, Conn.

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  1. Pingback: i-Impact Group | Storytelling: ‘Pull’ instead of ‘Push’ to Effectively Engage Your Audience

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