1: Game time.  

A small art museum in Cincinnati, Ohio was preparing to launch a capital campaign. To succeed, they would need several major donors to step up and pledge six-figure gifts to create momentum.

“After months of extensive research and networking, the campaign director secured an initial meeting with a well-known banker,” writes Esther Choi in Let the Story Do the Work. The campaign director and the museum’s lead curator would have fifteen minutes to make their pitch.

“Thrilled and nervous, the lead curator wanted to be prepared as possible. So she drafted what she wanted to say, asked colleagues for feedback, invited the content manager to edit her ‘speech’, then rehearsed it over and over,” writes Esther.

Then, the morning of the meeting, the executive assistant called to say the banker would have only five minutes to meet with them.

What would you do now? How could you use the five minutes most effectively?

The museum curator decided to deliver her 15-minute talk in the allotted five minutes. Rather than cut it down or synthesize her remarks, she rushed through what she had to say.

What was missing? An emotional connection. The banker didn’t make a pledge.

2: “In a world where time is scarce, attention spans minuscule, and information abundant, how do we find a way to inform and influence others most effectively?” Esther asks.

The answer? Tell a story that packs a punch and delivers the “right” emotional impact.

Yesterday, we looked at Esther’s five types of business stories: Rebirth, Origin Story, Rags-to-Riches, Overcoming the Monster, and the Quest.

So, how do we decide which type of story to tell? Esther’s answer: Ask ourselves the critical question: “What do I hope to make the audience feel?”

Emotion plays a crucial role in our decision-making process. In his book Million Dollar Consulting, Alan Weiss notes, “Logic makes people think, emotion makes them act.”

The key to creating an emotional response is authenticity and understanding the change the protagonist undergoes. “Change is the soul of story. In each of the plots, the lead character experiences a transformation of some kind,” Esther notes. “How has the lead character (you, in many cases) or situation changed as a result of what happens in the story?” A good story reveals something genuine about the main character, which elicits emotion from the audience.

3: Each of the five plots Esther outlines has a unique emotional quality. She observes:

“A rebirth story is about redemption, a second chance to reverse a bad situation and evoke optimism.

“The origin story addresses the desire to connect the dots between past and present in an inspiring way.

“Rags to riches evokes empathy and gets audiences cheering for the down-on-their-luck main characters.

“Overcoming the monster stories can induce righteous anger and compel people to act to ward off a present or imminent threat.

“And a quest can provoke restlessness, the desire to achieve more than what life seems to promise.”

While the primary emotion differs in each of the five story types, one sentiment remains consistent: Hope.

As bestselling novelist Harlan Coben says: “Hope can crush your heart like an eggshell, or it can make it soar.”

More next week. Happy New Year!


Reflection: Consider a topic about which I would like to persuade others. What emotion will they need to feel to agree with me?

Action: Experiment and reflect on what happens next.

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