Quiz time: Let’s say there’s a horrible natural disaster in some distant corner of the world. Which scenario below would be more likely to get you to open up your wallet and give to the relief fund?
A: A report on the nightly news mentioning all the relevant statistics: how much damage in dollars, how many lives lost, how many homes destroyed, etc.; or
B: A personal interview with a survivor on a telethon, in which the survivor tells the story of how the disaster destroyed her home, separated her from her loved ones, and forced her to rely on her wits to survive until help arrived.
If you’re like the vast majority of us, it’s the second scenario that’s more personally compelling and persuasive. Why? Well, a few things are at work here, but primarily, it’s the power of a story that evokes an emotional response. That emotion can be inspiration, anguish, empathy, energy, humor, or even anger when appropriate (think fundraising for a righteous cause). If you choose to use humor, do so sparingly. It’s easy to miss the mark with humor. If you get it wrong, you can turn off large portions of your audience. Give cutting, snarky sarcasm a pass. You don’t want to offend your audience.