small business constulting

Anchoring: A Simple Storytelling Trick to Make Data Approachable and Memorable

(A great article about how to frame any business talk or presentation by Jessica Dubin)

A few days ago, a friend and I were taking a late-night walk and ended up spending several blocks talking about the power of story. We work in different industries — tech vs. advertising — and sell our ideas to different audiences — team/stakeholders vs. clients/customers — but for both of us, finding the right story can make all the difference.

The next day, I got a series of texts about a presentation he was working on, and how hard it was to get the story right. He had pages and pages of research, notes and ideas, but the main story remained elusive.

Just knowing that stories can be powerful tools to articulate an idea or pitch a client isn’t enough. The hard part is uncovering the story buried in all the details, and then making that story stick.

So I shared some of the following advice with him…

Anchors are powerful storytelling tools

One of the most reliable methods I’ve found to make a story stick is to link it to an existing anchor in our brain. When we receive information through bullet points and text alone, only the language processing centers of our brain get activated. Often, information processed this way isn’t remember, because we aren’t able to relate it to something else we’ve already experienced or known.

In contrast, when we hear something that reminds us of some other memory or sensory experience that we’ve had, it is more easily remembered. It sticks with us because it has an existing anchor in our brain. The more anchors a piece of information has, the more likely it is to be remembered.

The first time I was going to present at our company’s monthly meeting, I asked our CEO if it would be okay for me to use Adele’s song “Hello” in my slide. It was the fall of 2015 and that song had gotten so popular that it had it had inspired a skit on SNL.

I had done over 250 cold-calls to users that month and so a song about trying to reach someone who doesn’t expect to hear from you felt strangely appropriate:

“Hello, can you hear me?
I’m in California ….
Hello from the other side
I must have called a thousand times…”

Our CEO gave me a sideways look and said, “Okay, so long as it isn’t a gif.” This was the start to a tradition that I would try to keep every few months of using something salient in pop-culture or events to have a bit of fun with my presentations.

(GIFs are often used for bite-sized entertainment and as statements, replies or comments in online conversations. They are also commonly used online to convey reactions, illustrate or explain concepts or products in a fun, creative and succinct way, and also to make GIF art.)

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