Jan 18, 2022

5 Lessons that Show the Power of Storytelling in Mission 2030

I recently attended a professional development workshop hosted by Reach Capital, a venture capital firm that has funded and advised many of the biggest names in education technology, and two partners from Enjoy The Work, an advisory and consulting group that coaches founders and executives on launching, funding, and growing successful businesses. The workshop focused on skills that leaders can build in order to persuasively pitch their companies to different stakeholders, but you can use them in your heroic efforts to transform Personal Finance from "the course I wish I had," to "the course I'm glad I had."

Want more tools to help persuade stakeholders in your community? Check out NGPF's How To Expand Access page!

Here are the top 5 lessons that show the power of storytelling in advocacy:

1. People remember stories 15x better than statistics.

I am aware that I have just used a statistic to make this point... but the point still stands!

Not convinced? Let Sir Ian McKellen, a far better storyteller than I, tell you the same thing in the form of a beautiful, timeless (4 min video) story.

Tell stories to communicate important ideas, and your students will remember those ideas 15x better than if you told them the same ideas straight up. Tell stories to persuade important stakeholders to to guarantee a personal finance course for all, and you'll be 15x more convincing.


2. Choose the right protagonist for your story - based on your audience.

Everyone knows someone who makes every story about themself. Don't be that someone, at least not all the time.

Pick your story's protagonist based on what your audience cares about. For example, does the school board care about graduation rates? Tell the story of a student who was in jeopardy of not graduating on time until your real-world class engaged and inspired them. Or better yet - ask that student to tell the story firsthand!


3. Almost every blockbuster story follows a predictable-but-riveting pattern called the Hero's Journey.

From the Iliad to the Avengers... stories follow well-worn templates. But you know what they say about things that ain't broke, right?

Here is the simplified version ETW shared of Joseph Campbell's classical Hero's Journey that you can make use of when telling stories in your classroom (or in a board meeting!)

  • Situation - the protagonist's problem
  • Complication - the trials that invest the audience in wanting to solve the protagonist's problem
  • Resolution - the eagerly-awaited solution to the protagonist's problem


4. Good stories are conversations, not monologues.

The best elevator pitch I ever heard for why every student should take a personal finance course was actually a question: "How did you learn about money?"

I never really understood why that was so persuasive until I attended this workshop with Reach and Enjoy The Work. That question was persuasive because it immediately made me (the audience in that instance) the protagonist. I wanted to participate right away. I wanted to join in finding a productive solution to the protagonist's problem, because I was the protagonist. Brilliant!

The key to a good story is that it's not a one-sided affair. It relies on the audience's participation, be it through body language, verbal responses, or emotional resonance.


5.  No jargon allowed.

No matter how well-versed your audience may be in the subject of your story, steer clear of overly technical jargon. This will help you get to the emotional core of your story and communicate the story's ideas even more effectively.

About the Author

Christian Sherrill

Former teacher, forever financial education nerd. As NGPF's Director of Growth & Advocacy, Christian is laser-focused on our mission to guarantee all students a rigorous personal finance course before crossing the high school graduation stage. Having paid down over $40k in student loans in the span of 3 years - while living in the Bay Area on an entry level teacher's salary - he's eager to help the next generation avoid financial pitfalls one semester at a time.

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