To Persuade People, Tell Them a Story
Wall Street Journal (New York, NY), November 9, 2013
Paul Smith had 20 minutes to sell the CEO of Procter & Gamble, and his team of managers, on new market-research techniques for which Mr. Smith’s department wanted funding. As associate director of P&G ‘s market research, Mr. Smith had spent three weeks assembling a concise pitch with more than 30 PowerPoint slides.
On the day of the meeting, CEO A.G. Lafley entered the room, greeted everybody and turned his back to the screen. He then stared intently at Mr. Smith throughout the entire presentation, not once turning to look at a slide.
“I felt like maybe I hadn’t done a very good job because he wasn’t looking at my slides like everyone else,” says Mr. Smith, who also noticed that the other managers didn’t seem very engaged. “It didn’t occur to me until later that he did that because he was more interested in what I had to say than in what my slides looked like.”
The experience prompted Mr. Smith to alter his approach. These days, he uses far fewer slides and a lot more anecdotes, turning his presentations into stories his audience can relate to instead of lecturing them on what needs changing. As a result, Mr. Smith says, he’s subsequently had much greater success getting his ideas across. In four subsequent presentations to Mr. Lafley and his team, they’ve followed along more closely, asked more questions and given better feedback, says Mr. Smith.
Move beyond facts and figures, which aren’t as memorable as narratives, says Cliff Atkinson, a communications consultant from Kensington, Calif., and author of “Beyond Bullet Points.”