By Henry DeVries, IMC USA Conference Chair

The most important element to include in a book or a speech that attracts clients are stories. But not just any type of story.

Consultants need to share success stories in which they are not the hero. The client needs to be the hero of the story. There needs to be a villain problem that is holding the client back. Finally, you need to be the wise mentor of the story that helps the client hero overcome the villain problem.

As my storytelling mentor Michael Hauge, author of Writing Screenplays that Sell and a screenwriting teacher and consultant to both Hollywood filmmakers like Will Smith and professional speakers, says: “The story must be true, but it does not have to be factual.” In other words, some literary license is allowed to condense the story down to its essence.

Hauge is the author of a new book, Storytelling Made Easy, and he will share the message of the book as the lunch speaker on Saturday, October 21 at the conference.

But why do consultants need to learn how to persuade with a story?

In September of 2008 Scientific American published an article on “The Secrets of Storytelling: Why We Love a Good Yarn.” Please read the entire article, but here is a summary.

According to Jeremy Hsu in Scientific American, storytelling is a human universal, and common themes appear in tales throughout history and all over the world. The greatest stories—those retold through generations and translated into other languages—do more than simply present a believable picture. These tales captivate their audience, whose emotions can be inextricably tied to those of the story’s characters.

By studying narrative’s power to influence beliefs, researchers are discovering how we analyze information and accept new ideas. A 2007 study by marketing researcher Jennifer Edson Escalas of Vanderbilt University found that a test audience responded more positively to advertisements in narrative form as compared with straightforward ads that encouraged viewers to think about the arguments for a product. Similarly, Melanie Green of the University of North Carolina co-authored a 2006 study that showed that labeling information as “fact” increased critical analysis, whereas labeling information as “fiction” had the opposite effect. Studies such as these suggest people accept ideas more readily when their minds are in story mode as opposed to when they are in an analytical mind-set.