Book Review: The Elements of Persuasion
What do Empedocles, Bill Clinton, Sun Tzu, Joe Montana and Warren Buffet have in common? [Hint ... the United States Marine Corps has it, too.] They all understand and have mastered the persuasive power of storytelling.
I recently finished reading The Elements of Persuasion, by Richard Maxwell and Robert Dickman. This wonderful, non-fiction (business/psychology) book, small in size (5" x 7.5") and just over 200 pages in length, is hot off the presses of Harper Collins Publishing. Its promise of helping readers "use storytelling to pitch better, sell faster and win more business" is a strong benefit statement. The authors back it up with great, instantly applicable material and a rich, enlightening approach. The material is easy to follow and each chapter builds upon the previous one. I loved the "pace" and flow of the book with its shorter, digestible chapters of roughly 20 pages.
Right off the bat, the authors give us relevant theory and techniques. We learn the principle that a story is a fact, wrapped in emotion that compels us to take an action that transforms our world. Next we're presented the five elements of story: passion, hero, antagonist, awareness and transformation. The fact that I was able to recall these quite easily, without peeking at the book speaks volumes! The writing is superb and the persuasive, convincing material is cogently presented and tightly organized.
Hey, let's face it: principles, theories and techniques are bland and uninspiring. This is where the authors shine, as they work their magic as teachers--and persuaders. Chapter by chapter, Maxwell and Dickman illustrate, inform and teach, bringing their teachings to life through one great story after another. I don't think I will ever forget the Ritz Carlton's WOW Stories or Liz Heller and the red Vespas. From studies of brain cognition and memory to behind the scenes looks at the scripting of TV shows and commercials, The Elements of Persuasion helps the reader to master the science and the art of storytelling. I have already put this new knowledge into action in my own storytelling at work and with my children (perhaps even in my blogging?).
For the sake of balance, I feel it necessary to offer at least one criticism. So here's mine: there were just a few too many references to the TV program, House, which I have only watched once or twice. In those references, I felt a bit like an "outsider." Not that big of a deal, on the whole.
Here's what it all boils down to for me. Number one ... I finished this book. Devoured it would be more accurate. That's always a good indication, naturally. Next, and equally important, the material stuck with me--I learned. Finally, I have already given my copy to a friend to read. Those things in mind, I give this book a hearty, p-h-a-a-t recommendation.