How can you get people to remember your ideas? You spend months, years of your life crafting a book that’s going to change the world, you publish it to great acclaim, and then you ask a reader, “What was your favorite part of the book? What did you learn?”
And they stare at you with their mouth half open for ten seconds before stammering out they have to go. They don’t remember anything you wrote.
My favorite story from Made to Stick is about a Stanford speech class. The whole class gave a short speech and then everyone voted on the best one. Predictably, the students with the most charisma, best diction, and best use of statistics were voted for most. The poor international students and computer science majors sulked at the bottom of the list.
That’s how it works right? The celebrities get all the attention because they are the best looking and most outgoing. The MBAs with their irrefutable numbers get the second big helping. The rest of us get their scraps.
But then the professor asked his students to write down everything they remembered.
The students looked down at their papers. They couldn’t even remember some of the main points, even for the top voted speeches.
However, they did remember stories. For every statistic, they remembered numerous stories. Suddenly, the pimpled geeks and that Chinese kid in the back of the class were on even ground with the class presidents and beauty pageant winners.
If you’re trying to change the world with your ideas, don’t beat our heads in with statistics. Don’t rely on your charisma.
Tell us a story about one person’s world being changed.
Illustrate the point, “the economy sucks,” by telling a story. For fifteen minutes, make up a story about how receycling saved one persons life.
Obviously, unless you want to ruin your reputation like this guy, you have to tell true stories in nonfiction. However, let’s just get into the practice of telling stories to illustrate points.