Have you ever climbed a mountain, run a marathon, jumped into a roiling sea or done any other daring, scary activity? Even if you faced your fear and did it anyway, ignored the objections of everyone around you or overcame a physical disability, your story may not be persuasive to your audience. Stories only persuade, inspire or motivate when they have meaning to the listener.
In "Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive", Goldstein, Martin and Cialdini explain that the more similar the social proof is to the target audience, the more persuasive it is. You must paint the picture with details that the audience in front of you will relate to.
How do you apply this scientifically proven persuasion technique to your speeches and presentations?
1) Understand the concept of 'social proof'. Researchers in psychology have studied and proven that we look to others to guide our behavior. If someone who is a lot like us does something, then we feel very comfortable doing it also. Cialdini calls this a 'short-cut'. With very busy lives, it's nearly impossible to figure everything out for ourselves, so when we can, we look to others like ourselves to help us decide what to do. The key element is others like ourselves.
2) Know details about your audience. Are they risk-takers who'd appreciate a good story about risk-taking? Are they "better be safe than sorry" types who like stories that reinforce their tendency to be cautious? Do they feel important or do they feel stuck in obscurity?
Demographics (age, educaiton, location, job title) are minimally helpful in selecting your stories. Instead focus on intangibles, such as outlook on life, dreams and desires and personal experiences to help you understand them and select social proof stories that will resonate with this particular group.
3) Turn your story into their story. I've been coaching business speakers to do this for years. All persuasive speakers look at the audience first and craft their stories in such a way that the audience members start to remember their own similar experience and responses. When you reach the resolution of the story the audience should be able to say "Wow! I'll do that myself the next time." This is persuasion.
When did you do something because someone like you did it? When did you hear a memorable story about overcoming great barriers and not be moved to action? Why do you think that is? Post your story about social proof in the comment box.