The COVID-19 pandemic has cut us off from face-to-face contact and made advisors dependent on virtual meetings for managing client relationships. As we have explored in other blogs, limitations of the screen, microphone and speakers significantly reduce the information we can send to and receive from other people. We can’t rely on rapport and emotional connections, but we can tell a story that increases the impact of the message in our virtual meetings.

This is good news for every advisor because, as behavioral scientist Daniel Kahneman reminds us, “No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story.” Because most advisors are much better with numbers than they are at creating powerful stories, here are four techniques that can improve the quality of your stories.

1. Stimulate Emotions

Great stories stimulate emotions as well as ideas. Catch your listener by surprise by starting with this observation: “There is a problem you need to know about.”

In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman describes the two types of feelings that move clients to take action: fear of pain and desire for pleasure. Importantly, he reveals that the fear of pain is almost three times more motivating than the desire for pleasure. This means that a great story will start by pointing out a problem or a challenge that’s unfolding in the world and that’s likely to affect the listener personally.

When reporting on a portfolio’s progress or reassuring a client that his financial plan is working, you can start with, “I’ve got some great news for you!” However, if you need to motivate a client to take action or you’re trying to inspire a prospect to engage your services, it’s far more powerful to start by saying, “There is a problem. Here’s what you should know.”

A great story gets the listener personally involved and emotionally engaged.