Thursday, April 16, 2015

Narratives vs. Numbers; Stories vs. Statistics

By Steven S. Vrooman

In The Zombie Guide to Public Speaking, I argue that there are really only two kinds of evidence (or supporting material) that can be used in a speech, numbers and narratives. I argue that things that usually show up on lists of supporting material in what I call the MOPSBOTS (My Old Public Speaking Books On The Shelf), like definitions or examples or testimony or comparisons, are really just versions of wither narratives or numbers. 

I further argue that statistics are REALLY important to some people and stories to others. In some cases it seems more than "I like numbers, so I am more likely to be persuaded if you give me some," but, instead, "You are dead to me if you can't provide me numbers, Mr. Talking-Right-Now." Same thing for stories. These are, for certain people, foundational elements of information-processing they cannot do without. So the advice I give is to have plenty of both. 

I have just discovered the greatest example of this phenomenon on reddit, in this comment about why Americans think soccer is boring and the rest of the world thinks American football is boring. 

I embed the comment here for your edification. It gives, to me, a visceral sense of what it feels like to need either numbers or narratives. Enjoy:

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