The 5 Elements of Persuasive Storytelling
Whether you are speaking to corporate audience, entrepreneurs or teenagers, there is one common denominator you can use to convince and persuade them. Storytelling. Without a good understanding of the 5 key elements of persuasive storytelling, your stories may have an undesired effect- put them to sleep.
By writing this short article, I hope that you will not put them to sleep, but rather ‘grab and keep them alive and engaged’ all through your presentation. It is my hope that after reading these five key elements, you will improve your storytelling ability in at least one dimension. If you can do that, I will be pretty happy that I accomplished my goal of sharing this with you something that I found useful and interesting. Here are the elements:
# 1. Passion
By passion, I mean the energy, the urgency or the momentum with which you tell your story. Your audience is drawn to your passion and feeds on your energy or ‘fire’. While the audience watches you in action, they are telling themselves, they are also carried by the swing of your momentum. Your burning passion and zest that makes an audience to listen and buy into the ideas you are selling or presenting. With passion, your story comes across as full of live and action.
Your passion can be communicated through a variety of ways: your voice, gestures, pace, words, eye contact, emotions and so on.
# 2. Hero
A story with a hero grounds an experience or incident into reality. It is through your hero that the audience will have a perspective based on what he or she is going through. When your hero embraces a course of action or shuns a piece of advice, that draws the audience into either the moment of the story. If your hero has a worthwhile ambition or goal, you can be sure that the audience begins to take sides, have preferences and dislikes. That is a moment of engagement.
In order for your hero to look real and for your audience to relate to the hero, give your heros some human qualities, especially some frailties or weaknesses.
The antagonist can either be a person, a conflict or circumstances that challenge, prevent or obscure the hero from getting what he wants. When the antagonist is effectively present in a story, there is friction, controversy and drama. The drama creates anticipation and the anticipation creates anxiety in the minds of the audience. When this happens, you can be sure that your story will be memorable.
The best way to create a memorable story is to inject a tough antagonist that does some prickly or testy things to upset the hero. When this happens there is excitement and audience experiences adrenaline rush, which causes images of the incident to be imprinted on their minds.
The awareness part of your story is crucial in that it enables the audiences to see what the hero has learned from an experience. Highlight it. Was it a positive or a negative lesson? How did the hero come to this awareness or relization? Was it through someone ‘s advice, or through his or her own discovery? By shedding light on this, the audiences can take a deep breathe and find some closure. Without awareness, there is no raison d’etre for any story at all. The awareness is the reason you tell the story in the first place.
Thus, in telling your story, ensure that you give your audience the opportunity to understand what was the point of the whole story, that way they can came to terms with themselves like the hero does.
Transformation refers to the changes that follows the realization or awareness. How did the hero and his environment change? Does the hero make a conscious effort to be different when approaching such a problem again? Another dimension of the transformation is your audience. In a sales story, a storyteller may have used the story to illustrate the benefits of moving from one place to another.
One way to improve your transformation is to explicitly call for action and let the audience know what you expect them to do. This is common in political speeches.
For more on the five elements, read The Elements of Persuasion by Richard Maxwell and Richard Dickman.