Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Facts Schmacts—What’s the Story?

In her thought-provoking book The Story Factor, author and consultant Annette Simmons drives home what I talk a lot about in my writing seminars when she writes:

"People make their decisions based on what the facts mean to them, not the facts themselves. The meaning they add to facts depends on their current story. People stick with their story even when presented with facts that don’t fit. They simply interpret or discount the facts to fit their story. This is why facts are not terribly useful in influencing others."

As I’ve said in this blog before, it’s not the content language that persuades people; it’s the context language—the interpretive information—that makes the facts relevant to them. If you’re thinking, “So much for bullet points, PowerPoint slides, and the like,” you may be overdoing it. After all, if the boss wants bullet points, you’ve got to deliver them. Just remember to set the reader up with a brief introductory statement about why the bullet points are relevant to your readers.

Simmons does a fine job of describing why storytelling is so essential a skill in influencing and persuading audience, and then she systematically lists the types of stories we need to tell and the situations that inspire them. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to be a better persuasive speaker—and with a little imagination, business writers will find how to apply her ideas to their composing process.

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