Think about the last policy presentation you attended: how many bullet points from the deck can you remember?
Chances are, not many. Lists of information can be effective, succinct ways of referencing or working through information in the moment. But they’re also difficult for most people to remember.
Now, think of a story you heard recently. Maybe a colleague told you about their car breaking down on 66, a friend told you about a personal experience they had with the issue you’re working on - or maybe you just watched an episode of a television show you enjoy.
You may not remember everything about that story, but you likely remember who was involved, the plot, and the big lessons. You might even still feel a twinge of emotion.
That’s because your brain is wired for stories. Over the last decade, neuroscience researchers have been taking a closer look at what has made stories such a powerful, lasting force in the way we interact with one another. What they’ve found has been remarkable. Stories trigger real biological responses in our brains that focus our attention, improve our memory, and drop our guard. For instance, we focus our attention when we reach a conflict in a story because it causes our bodies to produce more of the cortisol hormone. (Interested in more of the science? Check out these pieces from Lifehacker and The New York Times for short surveys of some of the recent scientific literature.)
Finally, think about a Hill staffer. Imagine the time they’ve spent that day in meetings, briefings, and presentations. Earning their attention and getting them to remember your points can be a real challenge.
It’s no surprise then that many advocacy organizations in Washington have found stories to be powerful advocacy tools: they are memorable, they earn the attention of your listeners, and can even help you build rapport with your audience.