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What’s the secret to communicating memorably?

 

Tell stories, not stats.

Stanford students each had to give a one minute speech, and then their talk was evaluated by the group. Not surprisingly, the presenters who were the most polished got rated most highly.

But then the researchers got clever: they distracted the students for a few minutes and asked them to recount specific points they remembered from each of the talks.

Did the same speakers still come out on top?

No. Polish wasn’t memorable. It was the students who used stories in their presentations that were best remembered.

Via Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die:

In the average one-minute speech, the typical student uses 2.5 statistics. Only one student in ten tells a story. Those are the speaking statistics. The “remembering” statistics, on the other hand, are almost a mirror image: When students are asked to recall the speeches, 63 percent remember the stories. Only 5 percent remember any individual statistic.

Furthermore, almost no correlation emerges between “speaking talent” and the ability to make ideas stick. The people who were captivating speakers typically do no better than others in making their ideas stick. Foreign students—whose less-polished English often leaves them at the bottom of the  speaking-skills rankings—are suddenly on a par with native speakers. The stars of stickiness are the students who made their case by telling stories, or by tapping into emotion, or by stressing a single point rather than ten. There is no question that a ringer—a student who came into the exercise having read this book—would squash the other students. A community college student for whom English is a second language could easily outperform unwitting Stanford graduate students.

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About Eric Barker