Motivate People With Storytelling

Change is hard, and the more people you need to convince, the harder it gets. Even if you’re simply switching your office email provider, it can be tough to get folks on board. Stephen Denning, in his book, The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling, recommends springboard stories to motivate people to change. We’ve broken down the springboard story using email as an example so you can try it yourself.

  • Find the right example. You’ll need a true example of someone who switched email providers and experienced positive results. The right example should be authentic, and it should focus on a single protagonist. Using one character helps listeners put themselves in his or her shoes.
  • Define a clear change idea. Your whole story should support why switching email providers is a good idea. Get rid of any extra details, and extrapolate the story toward your end goal if necessary. For example, because your story is about just one person, help the audience imagine how the change could work for a whole group.
  • Use details but be vague. If you say, “changing email providers is a good idea, and we’re going to do it,” your audience will resent you. No one likes to be told what to do. To truly motivate people, you need to lead them into thinking that your idea was their idea. They need to visualize themselves in the story. The trick is to use just enough details so they know it’s true (date, place, time), but not so many that they lose a personal connection with the story.
  • Ensure a happy ending. A springboard story should make the listener stand up and cheer. If your story is “that gentleman lost all of his clients because he didn’t switch email providers,” your audience will be too stressed to take action. Your story needs to be true, and the tone and ending should be positive.