Tell Me A Story



By Susan Tomai 

While standing 10 feet from Bill Clinton as he stumped for Hillary in Alexandria last week, I was once again impressed by his easy mastery of the art of storytelling.

“Yesterday,” he said, “I was shopping for a new pair of jeans. I asked the young saleswoman about college. She said sometimes she goes to college, and sometimes she can’t, because she can’t always afford it. She told me how high her student loan is, and how hard it is to pay down.”

“I believe that an investment in college is like an investment in your home,” continued the former president. “You can change your mortgage rate – why not have the ability to refinance your college loan? After all, it’s a 50 year investment, and a home loan is usually 30.”

I’d be shocked if that wasn’t the first time that week he told that same  “jeans” story to underscore a campaign message.

As a former TV producer, I learned the importance of storytelling early on. We all remember stories better than we remember facts and statistics – science has proven that the brain simply works that way. Of course your story needs to send a message, tell folks what to do, how to feel, how to vote, etc. – but the most important aspect of good storytelling is including descriptive details that capture the reader or listener. That’s what Clinton did at that appearance last week – he brought us into that jeans store with that young woman.

So the next time you deliver a presentation or sit for a media interview, deliver an anecdote (a true story, nothing made-up) to underscore your key messages. Describe the time, the place, the feeling. Your audience will be engaged, and will more effectively remember what you want them to.

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