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The 5 Principles and 10 Building Blocks of Persuasive Visual Storytelling

Principle 2: Reformat Your Information for a Yes-No Decision

In addition to a classic story structure, your story template incorporates persuasive techniques that are useful for many types of presentations in different contexts. These include using Aristotle’s concept that to persuade, you must appeal to emotion, reason, and personal credibility. Even if you intend to simply inform an audience about something, you still must persuade them to pay attention. Why should they listen? What’s in it for them? Finding the persuasive heart of a presentation is particularly important because it reformats information from the way we understand it to the way that an audience finds important—often a completely different perspective. This becomes crucial when you aim to present your data in a way that persuades your boss to approve your proposal. When you look at your information like your boss, who wants to make an informed decision as efficiently as possible, your focus shifts to getting to the relevant points as quickly as possible.

When we tackle a new area of information, we usually start by gathering data, analyzing it, and finally distilling the story of the essence of what it means. Problems arise when we want to take our audiences through the same process we did when we learned the information (show the detail first, follow with the analysis, and finally, the story at the end). As described in Chapter 1, if we present too much information at the start, we quickly overwhelm the working memory of our audiences.

A persuasive story structure solves the problem by focusing information on a real-world decision the audience needs to make, which you’ll do in the next chapter. This focus on a “yes-no” decision from the audience will help you dramatically reduce what you could say to only what you must say to help your audiences decide something.