Stories: 3 Tips to Motivate Others Through Storytelling

Think of the last time you were motivated by a graph. How about a PowerPoint? Or a data chart.  Heck, when is the last time you were motivated by numbers period? I don’t mean motivated in the sense that you recognize something needs to get done so you put it on your to-do list. I mean motivated like “Let’s get out there and DO something!”

How about the last time you heard a story that motivated you?

For most of us, we encounter motivating stories much more often than motivating abstractions and information. Stories have the power to convey ideas, any idea, much more powerfully than simple information ever will.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery said,

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

In other words, tell them a story. Stories capture the interest not only of our mental faculties, as numbers sometimes do, but also the emotional center and the imagination.

The best advertisers do this. Instead of telling you about how many people love their product or enumerating the various qualities of their product they tell a story about one person whose life was improved, and let you imagine that that person is you. Those are the ads that stick because stories have power.

So if you need to motivate, inspire, or lead maybe it’s time to look at improving your storytelling skills. Here are 3 simple ways.

 

  • Make it relevant. Who is your audience? What experiences can they relate to? Make your story relatable. How would the information you are trying to communicate affect people like your audience. It doesn’t have to be complicated. One easy way to do this is tell about how someone’s life would be different without your product/service. Or you can take the flip side, how would their life be better with it? Make it concrete, and people will naturally imagine (invest) themselves in the story.

 

  • Keep it focused. As you prepare and tell your story, keep it simple and focused. Don’t throw in extra information that doesn’t build the story and emphasize your point. The audience doesn’t need a complete biography of the main character. We don’t need a historical background of where the story takes place. Make sure that whatever you tell in the story adds to the effect and the point you are making. Additional information will be distracting and diminish the impact of your story.

 

  • Only tell stories that move you. If you aren’t moved or inspired by the story you are tell, no one else will be. (If you discover that you can’t find/make/tell a story that moves you, maybe you aren’t working in the right place.) There is nothing that an audience picks up on faster than insincerity. The second they get the sense that it doesn’t matter to you it will no longer matter to them. This the most important of these three tips. Even if your story isn’t relevant to everyone in the room, even if you get a bit carried away with unnecessary details, your passion and conviction can carry the day and leave a lasting impact. Martin Luther King Jr. moved and inspired people who weren’t black. Ghandi influenced the world, not just India. Your passion and conviction are your biggest asset when telling a story to get buy-in.

 

We all try to motivate people at various points, be it in business or our personal relationships. Next time, try a story. I’m going to leave you with a great video from an industry that isn’t typically associated with highly motivated people, the fast-food industry.

Imagine you’re in charge of a fast food chain and you’re trying to get your staff motivated to give everyone exceptional service. You could sit down and give a “Every customer is a valued customer” pep talk, or you could tell a story, like the one below. Which do you think works better?

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