February 3, 2023

Facts Versus Stories – What was that fact again?


I often use the quote:

‘A fact wrapped in a story is 22 times more memorable than the fact alone’.

Recently I tried to find the source and failed so this quote seems to be what they call apocryphal.

So, I have decided to ditch that quote from my repertoire. To replace it, I will now reference an experiment Dan and Chip Heath included their book, Made to Stick. It’s one of my favourite business books so I have read it several times.

The Experiment

The experiment was conducted with students at Stanford University. Half the students were asked to prepare a one-minute speech that supported the argument that non-violent crime is a serious problem. The other half were asked to present the case against.

On average, the students used 2.5 statistics in their one-minute speeches, while only one in ten students told a story.

Facts Versus Stories

When it came to remembering the presentations ten minutes later, only five percent of the audience could recall any statistics while 63% of the audience could remember the stories. If my maths serves me correctly, the stories in this experiment were around 13 times more memorable than the statistics.

My Experience

I experienced this myself last year when Jess and I were in New York. We did a one-hour tour of the 9/11 Memorial during which we were told lots of interesting statistics and facts. We were also told some stories of individual heroics and tragedy.

After the tour Jess asked me if I remembered how long the guide said a particular column was. I had no idea. In fact, I could not recall one statistic and it was only about 15 minutes after the tour had finished. The stories, however, I will remember forever.

Stories are Sticky

While the facts are interesting at the time, they are not sticky. Stories, on the other hand are sticky.

Regardless of whether the figure is 22, 13 or even 2, isn’t it worth exploring how you can share a story to make your message stick? Relying purely on facts or statistics may be interesting at the time but it means you miss out on using the stories that stick in people’s memories.

If you want to learn how to share stories effectively in business that are sticky and not icky, you know where to find me.