Stories vs. Statistics
My favorite way to break down the barrier, ever, is a story. We hear about it all the time. People will tell you that story, story, stories, they're great. They're amazing. I've told you a couple stories today. I'll tell you some sad ones later. But it's true. It's an emotional connection. We tend to spend a lot of time in business presenting in interviews presenting numbers because we think that's what works. I've done this this many times, I've succeeded in this way, but those statistics create that barrier and people go ooo numbers, I don't like numbers. How does our brain work? Our brain works because it translates language and it translates language into emotions right, and images. So when I talk to you, everything I'm saying, you're all picturing some sort of image hopefully when I tell a story, and you've all got emotion - could be good, could be bad. So if I know that the best way for me to connect with you as a presenter is literally to talk in a story because you love conflic...
t and you love characters. If I tell you statistics and this is true - scientifically speaking of course - if I talk to you in statistics I'm activating two areas of your brain: language comprehension and processing. So I'm literally saying to you you are a computer and I will activate you by just giving you numbers. Hooray! That's my presentation. But if I tell you a story, I am gonna activate up to seven areas of your brain: scent, touch, smell, all of these areas... Scent and smell are the same ones, obviously, (audience laughs) colors, shapes, right? All of these areas. Or for those of you who have two scent sections of your brain, the scent and smell section. (audience chuckles) It's really, really important to understand 'cause here's the thing, when I tell a story, I know that you are going to possibly take the action that I'm asking you to take. Stats do not shape behavior. I can show you statistics but that's not gonna change the way you behave. But if I tell you how I feel about the statistics or how we got these statistics, or what I'm thinking about with these statistics, you're more likely to change your behavior. Why do charities often share that one individual that we've helped? Because if they gave you a list of all the people they help or all the people they need to help, and all the money they need, all of you'd be like huh, they're in a lot of trouble, and then you just go on with your day. But when I say to you this person we helped and their life has changed, this is what's going on, all of a sudden we connect. Now I'm emotionally connected and I might take an action. I might say I wanna help somebody like that, it feels good, but the numbers don't make me feel good, so that's why it's so valuable for you when you do that. I'll give you a really good example, I hope. Here's my story. When I started my career 15 years ago, I worked with somebody who drank coffee all day. Seven, eight cups a day. So since that time, I have never had coffee while I was at work. The end. Yeah? Pretty good? (audience member chuckles) You're all like, mmm that's kind of a bad story. Let me tell you that story again. 15 years ago I worked for a Fortune 500 company and I had this amazing manager who was all about connecting and efficiency. But he was a close talker. So whenever I had a conversation with him he was right there. He'd be like, "Andy, send this email to that person", do this, do that. And he drank coffee all day long, and that coffee was filled with cream and sugar, and his breath was the most sour breath I have ever smelled in my life. So when he would talk to me, all I would think about was that breath to the point where I would have to later in the day ask him via email, can you tell me what you told me to do in that last meeting we had? And I think he thought I had some issues because I could never remember what he said. And that is why I do not drink coffee while I am at work. (audience chuckles) Much more effective. Did all of you kind of sense that person in my face talking to me? Did you smell that coffee? Did you understand now? I've just related to you in a way? Some of you laugh, some of you smiled. That's that emotional connection we're talking about. Did I need to tell that story really fast? But did I give you a voice modulation? Did I physically give my interpretation of that story? I had to work that out. I've tried other ways. People do that talking where they go back and forth, right? When you say, "I'm in a conversation." It's not gonna work for this story so I worked out what's most effective 'cause I've tested it with people. So these are all things that happened in my presentation that are really important. That's great Andy but if you have to present this? (audience laughs) I'd like to present my earnings for the last quarter. Congratulations to me. This is important 'cause we do have to present statistics. A lot of us are in business. I might be pitching an idea to a client and I've gotta give'em numbers. I might have to give'em competitive analysis. I might have to give'em some market sizing, I might have to give'em numbers of some sort. What's my rate? What's my bid? So how do I do this effectively? I can still do this with a story. There are great books on doing technical presentations. You have to realize that people learn through visualization. This is actually not a beautiful graph, I'm not a designer, but think about it. What if my brand is all about being exceptional? What if my brand is about being the expert in knowing things? I need my graphs to reflect that. So make sure your materials are really strong. If they're not and we throw them together, that's what people think of your research, that's what people think of you, so make better graphs and have a primary focus. Visual representation for statistics is so much more valuable than giving them numbers. So much more valuable and stories are more valuable. Here is an example that I read recently. They were talking about sunny days in Seattle. So someone said here's the effectiveness of just telling numbers. There are less than 56 sunny days a year in Seattle, Washington. How's that guy make you feel? Like oh it's not a lot of sunny days. But if I tell you more effectively, there are no more than five sunny days a month in Seattle, Washington, is that a much easier way for you to understand at how much more powerful it is? So how you present those numbers really make an impact on how you actually share that information. Our right brain visualizes. So let it visualize. Use analogies when you do your images. Infographics, visual images are really powerful, and I'll give you another tip - this is great. Explain the axes. Let people know who may not be in that room and understand all the numbers. How many of you have been in a meeting where you're supposed to be there, but you're not one of the team or someone who really gets all the numbers. You're like but my job is not to do that but you have to be in that. So welcome everybody into your presentation with statistics. Talk about what this means and why it means something, 'cause that's my primary focus. 'Cause sometimes you'll see people with 19 different things going on on their chart and that barrier comes right up - you're like I'll figure it out later. So simplify it and make it easy for people. And then tell stories. If I looked at you and said listen, this is our sales everybody, get to work. Is that an effective way to tell statistics? But if I told you a story about how I got these numbers, what we thought about while we were collecting the data, what it means to me, and how I'm gonna help you change this, now you might take an action. Hopefully, all of yours are reversed, but remember sometimes you have to have that presentation where you're not giving the greatest news in the world. It doesn't mean that I have to be somber when I give that presentation. I still need that energy, I'm still excited to share with you what we found and how we're gonna fix it, versus we're all in this together and it's pretty bad everybody, sorry. So you have to think about it. These are all effective ways to communicate.
Does your work require you to give presentations? Are you just getting through them and hoping for the best but not quite hitting the mark?
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