We repeatedly underestimate how important a story is to help us make sense of the world.

I read this in today’s blog post from Seth Godin. That’s it. That is the absolute core of effective communication. Throwing facts, opinions, statistics, or theories at people does nothing to evoke a response. Without framing that information in context–particularly a context that means something to the listener–you’ll either receive nothing in return or an interpretation so far from what you had anticipated you didn’t know it was possible.

A few years ago I gave a presentation offering business writing tips. The cornerstone of the message was comprised of two principles:

  • What do you want your audience to know?
  • Why does (should) your audience care?

If you nail the answers to these two questions, you’ll know what story to tell. Your story doesn’t have to be an anecdote or a cute quip, though they often help. Your story is simply the context you thread through your information to weave it into something that makes sense to your audience. Your data is not your message–your data is the support for your message.

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing, making a presentation, or simply speaking to a friend, you have to make a connection. It’s almost impossible to make your point without it.