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The emotional appeal of storytelling actually helps information stick in our brains – up to 22 times better than statistics or numbers alone.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of teaching a class, you’ve also witnessed at least one moment when your students’ eyes glaze over.
Sure, some of the blame might be yours – speaking too much, too fast, not asking questions, not taking enough breaks. But chances are, your audience is probably daydreaming. A recent Harvard study revealed we spend 47 percent of our time in la la land.
So, what grabs our attention and helps us refocus?
One clue: it’s not numbers. Stories are key.
In fact, a study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University found that the emotional appeal of storytelling actually helps information stick in our brains – up to 22 times better than statistics or numbers alone. Scientifically speaking, the story (emotion) changes our brain chemistry, which changes our behavior (memory).
“Like the scientist who says, ‘the more I learn about nature, the more I believe in a higher power’ …the more I learn about data, the more I believe in storytelling,” said Zeszut.
Zeszut shared her tips for great storytelling with data.
Of particular interest was the idea of providing context. When sharing numbers, Zeszut recommends answering your readers’ questions about planned versus actual performance; period performance versus relevant historical trends; and internal and external benchmarking.
For example, simply reporting that your corporate Twitter account has 10,000 followers means nothing on its own, and will likely be forgotten. You need to provide information on social media campaigns conducted and the number of followers before and after your efforts for your audience to make any informed judgments about success or failure.
Remember, they are most likely daydreaming, so tell a good story to grab their attention and jog their memory. Heck, they might even tweet about it.
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