We are bombarded by many messages every day. We retain some of them but forget most. Why? What makes a statement or story "stick" in our minds while others quickly dissipate? Brothers Dan and Chip Heath explore this topic in their 2007 book "Made to Stick."
The authors use the mnemonic "SUCCES" to express ideas that make a message more "sticky." The letters stand for Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and Stories. Each chapter covers one of these ideas.
Focus on a single idea. Trying to cover too many ideas distracts from your main point. The compactness of the message is essential.
Defy expectations to grab your listener's attention. You can open with a counterintuitive example or express an idea in an unexpected way. They tell of a Southwest Airlines flight attendant who told jokes during the pre-flight safety demonstration to hold the passengers' attention. I have been on a flight with this flight attendant.
Provide examples to convey your ideas. The authors use this technique repeatedly in the book, providing specific examples to illustrate and reinforce abstract concepts.
Make these ideas believable by relating them to something the listener understands.
The critical point here is that people will respond to stories about individuals more than general stories of groups of people. People react more strongly to a message that hits their emotions than to facts and figures.
Place your ideas within a story to keep the listener engaged. The authors describe three categories of plots for a compelling story: the Challenge Plot, the Connection Plot, and the Creativity Plot.
One concept that resonated with me is the curse of knowledge. We assume that our target audience knows what we know and has the same perspective and priorities. It is difficult to put ourselves in their position, which hinders responsibility. I strive to reduce my assumptions about my audience.
This book is helpful for educators, marketers, storytellers, public speakers, and anyone who wants to convey an idea or persuade others.
The Heath brothers filled "Made to Stick" with examples and studies to illustrate their points. They used an example from the Bill Clinton campaign to demonstrate a message's Simplicity ("It's the economy, stupid") and one from the Reagan campaign to illustrate testable credibility ("Are you better off now than you were four years ago?").
The authors deliver their advice in a straightforward, conversational tone. This simplicity makes the book's ideas stick with the reader.