Someone asked me a brilliant question on LinkedIn, and I thought I’d share my answer in case you are struggling with the same thing. I’m in a hurry, so I just cut and pasted my answer. Excuse any typos or grammatical errors. It was just too long to do this as a post. 🙂

Question: I’m sitting in your virtual storytelling session and the way you talk about framing your stories for buy in resonates! I work with CEO’s and boards driving who are worried about the risk of new strategies – buy in is essential. How do you find storytelling helps people deal with risk ?

My Answer: Hi! Glad you found value in the session. It really only scratches the surface of what story can do to raise one’s level of influence and persuasion. This would be a great topic for a podcast or an article. But let me see if I can answer your question here in a succinct way.  First of all, I’m hearing you say that getting buy in is critical, and can be hard especially when there is risk involved in what you’re “selling” to your employee/market/etc. 

Let me first begin by saying that getting buy-in is about finding a way to go from telling someone what they need to do – to make them actually WANT to do it. This is done by tapping into what their specific pains and desires are and the emotions attached to them. This is why the story works so well because data isn’t emotional.  Your story can mirror their situation (and what’s in this for them) in a way that is non-threatening and allows them to come to their own conclusions.  So first step in using Story is understanding why and how it works. Most people just know it’s important, and they can’t figure out why they aren’t using strategic storytelling well. 

So to recap so far: Story helps you get buy in by creating an emotional connection between teller and listener, and illustrating the problem THEY have and how your solution will help with their pain/desire and the emotion you have strategically illustrated in the story.

Now let’s move on to the risk factor.  When you’re selling this idea/vision that has high risk, you would obviously tell them why this risk is worth taking, and illustrate the pay off while minimizing the consequences.  The answer to this is your data, story is the illustration of that data. Both work together when you persuade. So you would find a story that simply illustrates how someone used your vision (product, solution, etc.) and it had a positive pay off. The point to remember is that the story is simply a tool to illustrate the data – and its beauty is that it makes it emotional. Story makes them care about what you care about, because it relates to what they care about. And story makes YOU, the “seller” of this vision, human to them, which is also important if your “buyer” doesn’t really trust you. Selling (and we’re always selling when we persuade) is about getting someone to like you, trust you, believe you, and feel like they know you.  Story SHOWS who you are without having to tell them. Facts tell. Stories sell.

The last point I want to make is that often risk can be equated to change. People are afraid of the unknown – and new ideas and innovation is just that, creating something nobody has ever seen before.  When it comes to change, we often mistakenly assume that everybody is afraid of it. When in truth, it’s not change they are afraid of, but being unprepared for it. Story allows them to walk through this change, test drive the new idea, so they feel more prepared. It’s kind of like how we take our five year old to school the day before school, and walk him through the “story” of what the day will look and feel like, to lessen the anxiety.

I hope this answers your question in a way that adds value to what you are trying to accomplish. The story is a complicated (or rather content-rich) subject. You can’t sit in a class and expect to walk out knowing how to use it. I have spent my LIFE studying it, and am still amazed at new discoveries.  

Kelly Swanson is a motivational keynote business speaker who makes people laugh, reminds them of their value, teaches them how to use humor to see beyond the obstacles in the workplace, and shows them how to be unforgettable because people don’t buy from people they don’t remember. In addition to her role as a funny motivational speaker, Kelly teaches people how she does it by sharing what she has learned about connecting and engaging to have more influence in business, through the use of one tool – strategic storytelling! To Book Kelly for your next virtual, In-person or Hybrid contact us today at 888-766-3155 or

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