I was driving along the other day, listening to Radio 4, when I caught the last half of an appeal for the Lymphoma Association (click on link and listen). I have no particular interest in this cause (although it’s a worthy one), but the reason it grabbed my attention was the storytelling technique used to promote the charity.
I think there are some great lessons to be learned here for anyone looking to persuade an audience to ‘buy’ their proposition.
It was presented by James Landale (pic above), the BBC’s Deputy Political Editor. He was diagnosed with the disease and is well qualified to speak about it. For an audience to buy what you’re selling, it helps if the messenger has an authentic link to the topic (rather than a sales-person who’s picked some random product to promote for a while). And because Landale is a journalist, he tells the story in a clear, crisp and compelling way.
A direct opening
So many presentations begin with a long preamble – “Hi, my name is George and today I’m going to talk to you about…” But Landale opens with, “For me it began, as it does for so many others, with a lump.” He’s straight into the story and as an audience we’re hooked from the first moment.
Emotive and expressive words
He talks about, “this seemingly innocuous noggin of flesh…the little thing had staying power…the offending piece of grissle was teeming with cancerous cells…I’ll always remember the shiver of mortality I felt…” These words help us connect with his feelings, and are everyday language and not medical or (in the workplace) corporate-speak.
Great vocal delivery
Again, you’d expect this of a journalist, but it’s important to remember that the way we say things has as much impact (if not more) than what we say. No umms or errs, clear diction, not too fast or slow, time for the words to land, changes of pace, volume and tone. Julian Treasure makes a great point in his TED talk about the sounds we pay attention to. We use a thing called ‘differencing’ – in other words we’re looking for variety or a change to the norm – and this is absent in monotone voices like those of tennis player Andy Murray.
Letting us in
Landale allows the audience to share his thoughts and feelings as he gets his diagnosis, and struggles to make sense of his predicament. This degree of openness builds trust in an audience and we empathise with what he’s going through. There’s an element of vulnerability to this, but it helps us warm to a speaker and we somehow feel involved in his journey. In a movie, this helps us invest emotional capital in a character – we care what happens to them.
A call to action
If you plan your talk with the outcome you want, you’ll remember to insert a call to action at the end (many forget!). Make it simple – audiences don’t want too many choices.
I know I’ve rather hi-jacked this appeal for another purpose, but hopefully my thoughts will get shared so the charity gets talked about, and supported.
To support the Lymphoma Association…
Donations to Lymphoma Association should be sent to FREEPOST BBC Radio 4 Appeal, please mark the back of your envelope Lymphoma Association. Credit cards: Freephone 0800 404 8144. You can also give online at www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/appeal. If you are a UK tax payer, please provide Lymphoma Association with your full name and address so they can claim the Gift Aid on your donation. The online and phone donation facilities are not currently available to listeners without a UK postcode.
Registered Charity Number: 1068395.