Make Them Do What You Want: A Guide to Persuasive Storytelling

As you approach the middle part of your talk, you notice somebody in the back yawning.

A few minutes later, somebody else yawns.

Not too long after that, some people in your audience start to fidget.

They look at the time, look around, and get tempted to talk to each other.

You carry on with your talk as the room gets noisier and noisier.

You reach the end of your talk.

After giving out all the facts about global warming, you’d think they would care about the subject as much as you do.

I mean, how could they not possibly be alarmed after knowing that the global temperature has more than doubled in the last 50 years?

During your talk you’ve enumerated all the facts about global warming.

You gave them numbers, names of government agencies involved, and its effects on the planet.

You gave your best efforts in persuading people to change their habits by bombarding them with all these facts.

Seriously, with all these, they should be asking you all the questions on how to help.

You step off the platform, and walk towards your table.

You slowly pack your things.

Anytime now.

You prepare your answers for the possible questions some of the members from the audience might ask you.

But there wasn’t anyone who approached you.

It has been 15 minutes.

“Maybe they’re just too shy.” You tell yourself.

But you’ve left your contact information details after the talk, too.

Maybe within the week, they’ll contact you.

So you continue living your life, but with that talk still at the back of your mind.

It’s been a week.

Still no messages, phone calls or emails.

Where did you go wrong?

You start getting paranoid, and have a flashback of your previous talks.

Were you really that boring?

All these thoughts run in your head as you prepare to attend a talk on global warming.

Since you’re so passionate about this subject, you continue to attend conferences and seminars on where you could learn more about this topic.

You equip yourself with heavy vocabulary and some more facts because they might come up and you’ll know where the speaker is heading.

The talk starts, and this guy is basically telling everyone the same thing you were talking about with a different audience a week ago.

But you notice something different.

Everybody seems eager to pay attention to this man.

Nobody was yawning.

Nobody was uncomfortably fidgeting in their seat.

Nobody even tried to talk to each other.

Their eyes and ears were glued to this speaker.

“Wow. My audience sucked last week.” You mutter to yourself.

Deep down, you knew it wasn’t the audience.

Because somehow, the speaker in front of you knew the right words to say to keep an audience hooked.

He’s got you hooked, too. More than you’d like to admit.

As he delves deeper into his topic, you can’t help it.

You knew exactly where you went wrong.


Don’t make the same mistakes stated above.

Let’s talk about how you can persuade your audience to take action on a cause you know that’s worth fighting for:


1. Appeal to the heart first.

The human mind is hardwired to process stories better than facts, and even more with an emotional charge to them.

Generally, we are more likely to remember events with emotional arousal rather than events with none.

Scientists have found that our body releases a hormone while these emotionally charged events are taking place.

According to Science Daily, “this hormone “primes” nerve cells to remember events by increasing their chemical sensitivity at sites where nerves rewire to form new memory circuits.”

In lay man’s terms, a hormone makes your new nerve cells more chemically sensitive.

So, what does this information mean for you as a storyteller?

It means that if you are able to make your audience feel something while narrating your story, they have higher chances of remembering that story.

Who wouldn’t want to be remembered?

Nobody remembers the guy who keeps saying he “had a nice dream last night.”

Those phrases are overused and too generic.

You want to make them feel how and why your dream was “nice.”

A better way to say it would be, “After months of waiting, I finally saw my wife. I’ve never been

happier but I knew I had to wake up soon.”

Practice how to tailor your words to be suitable to whoever your audience will be.

If you’re going to speak in front of a university, or a younger audience, maybe the example above isn’t appropriate.

Figure out the desires, fears, wants and needs of your audience or audience to be, and construct a story on how to tug their heartstrings from there.


2. Build up to a moment they’ll never forget.

This is the opportunity to reveal something shocking.

According to Nancy Duarte, it can come in different forms such as statistics or drama.

So try to be creative, as long as it’s appropriate for the presentation.

You can use a prop, a thought-provoking statement, or disprove a common misconception.

For example, if your topic is about smoking, you can present a short skit in where two people stand in front. Their only difference is that one is holding a cigarette.

Then later, you reveal that the one without a cigarette is the one who gets lung cancer despite never holding a cigarette in his life.

Not everyone knows that a person who doesn’t smoke, is also at risk if he’s exposed to smokers often.

Third hand smoking is real.

Do your research online, or ask the people you know, about what they don’t know.

Once again, either it’s a statistic, or some form of drama, it doesn’t matter.

As long as it’s something you know they’ll always remember.


3. Be authentic. Keep it simple.

As eloquent as you might want to sound, unless you’re in the courthouse filled with lawyers, not everybody will be able to understand the fancy words you’re trying to tell them.

Keep it simple.

Be yourself.

The simpler, the better.

It’s easier to grasp if people are able to explain it in their own words.

Besides, you’ll be much more passionate if you use your own words.

You’ll be more comfortable.

You won’t put an emphasis to memorization.

You don’t need all those big words irrelevant to your topic just to impress people.

As Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”


Appeal to the heart first.

Build up to a moment they’ll never forget.

Be authentic. Keep it simple.


You’ve just given your fourth talk on global warming since you’ve discovered and applied the art of persuasive storytelling.

The audience took it well.

You even received a standing ovation.

Pondering deeply about questions some members of the audience asked when they approached you, you drive to the nearest Starbucks from the venue you spoke in.

As you order your tall skinny vanilla latte, you hand over your personal Starbucks tumbler to the barista.

“Oh cool, we have the same design” says a voice from behind.

You turn to look and she shows her tumbler.

“I was compelled to take action in my own little way because of your speech last month. It moved me. You can always find me in a Starbucks, so I decided to get one of these to do my part in helping the environment.”

You couldn’t believe your ears.

You wonder how many others were doing this or other methods without you knowing.

You’ve made an impact to at least one person.

And that makes all the difference.


What other characteristics do you think a speaker must have to be persuasive?

Write ’em down in the comments below!

Like this article?

Subscribe to our mailing list to keep updated for more!


2017-08-15T05:48:33+00:00 By |Categories: Persuasion|0 Comments

About the Author:

Nicah Caramba is the founder of Today I'm Changing. She is an entrepreneur who is passionate about self-improvement, travel and Japanese food. She is constantly looking for ways to make progress daily to achieve personal growth that creates impact on others.

Leave A Comment