“If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will” ~ Mother TeresaMother Teresa

Would your next speech appeal to people like Mother Teresa?

Not because she was a Saint, but because she understood the power of individual stories. 
 
The book ‘Made to Stick’ highlights a 2004 project at Carnegie Mellon University. Researchers wanted to understand the power of individual stories versus abstract causes.
 
Participants took a survey. Upon completion, they received five one dollar bills. Along with the money, they received a letter. The letter asked them to contribute to a (hypothetical) cause called ’Save the Children.’
 
Some participants received a letter filled with statistics. They read about 3 million people in Angola who face ongoing food shortage. How a 42% reduction in maize production in Malawi means 3 million face hunger this year. Why 11 million people in Ethiopia face starvation on an ongoing basis.
 
Other participants received a letter with a story focused on one child, Roqia. This little Malawian girl faced the ongoing threat of hunger and starvation.

Unexpected reader behavior

The behavior of the participants was surprising. Those that received the ‘stat-filled’ letter contributed an average of $1.14. Those that received the ‘Roqia’ letter contributed more than twice a much — $2.38.
 
Other studies by the researchers yielded similar results. Individual stories consistently yield more contributions, usually twice as much.

The impact of stories over large numbers

A sales adage states that “People buy with emotion, and justify with logic.” These studies confirm that saying. Carnegie Mellon researchers theorized that statistics turn off our emotions. They reduce the likelihood that we’ll buy into an idea, product or service, or contribute to a cause.
 
This research also gives insight into Mother Teresa’s quote above. She understood a concept called the “drop-in-the-bucket effect.” Large concepts like ‘3 million people starving’ create feelings like “What’s the use? My small contribution can’t make a difference.” But, individual stories make you feel that you can have a significant impact on that one person.
When I was a Certified Financial Planner, our team loved sharing numbers. For example, “95% of Americans will retire without long-term financial security.” Before I saw the light, we bombarded our clients with these facts.
 
What we should’ve done is share successful client stories. For example, the couple which was feeling stressed because of their retirement plan. They felt terrified that they’d outlive their money. Then they went through a proper planning process. They made changes. They put themselves on a proper path.
 
Their mood improved. Their marriage improved. Their feelings about the future improved.
This story is more appealing to prospective clients. It’s more impactful than the “95% of Americans” statistic.

What to do in your next speech

For your next presentation, drop the large numbers. Transform statistics or data into individual stories. Turn off the logic. Turn on the emotions.
 
Mother Teresa understood what Carnegie Mellon researchers confirmed. Focus on the one, and you get buy-in to your ideas than when we talk about the masses.
 
Before you present your next talk, ask yourself:
 
“Would this appeal to Mother Teresa?”

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Would Your Speech Appeal to Mother Teresa? ultima modifica: 2018-06-30T10:48:10+00:00 da Michael Davis

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