Using Stories To Liven Up Your Public Speaking

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We’ve all heard this public speaking advice: “Tell them what you’re gonna tell them. . . tell them . . . tell them what you told them.” The problem with this advice is that it’s simplistic. It’s also boring.

On the one hand, this is a classic way to structure a presentation. On the other hand, if you really step onto the podium and “tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em,” you are going to put your audience to sleep rather than energize them.

One of the best ways to get your audience’s attention right from the beginning and keep it is with storytelling. Stories help the audience make the connection between your topic and their lives. Stories create mental pictures for the audience. Stories help the audience relate to you as a person. Stories are ten times more interesting than an enumeration of facts and figures.

How can you use stories effectively to get your message across? Here are five pointers to help you make the most of your stories.

Pointer 1: Be original

It’s easy to pull a story off the Web or from a forwarded e-mail. Unfortunately, everyone has heard these stories many times. When you deliver a story that’s not your own and that people have heard before, it greatly lessens the story’s impact and effectiveness.

Choose stories that are original, that are yours, and that have meaning to you. You don’t have to talk about yourself. Your story could be about a client, a customer, a friend, a family member, or someone you saw walking down the street. It just has to be original and illustrate your point.

Pointer 2: Use humor

Humorous stories are a perfect way to engage the audience. Pretty much everyone likes to laugh. Self-effacing humor humanizes you to the audience and helps them relate to you, but be careful that you don’t overdo it. Make fun of yourself too much and you start to look insecure. It’s not necessary to tell jokes; just find the humor in your topic and insert it where it fits best.

Pointer 3: Involve emotions

The best stories are ones that evoke an emotional response. Maybe there’s a story that relates to your topic that makes the audience angry or sad, or excited or curious. Share your own emotions with them and invite them into your world. Emotional connection makes them want to hear more.

Pointer 4: Be descriptive

Help your audience experience the story by giving vivid descriptions of places, people, colors, shapes, smells, sizes, textures, and sensations. Use gestures to demonstrate physical aspects of the story. Act out parts of the story to make it more real.

Pointer 5: Plan ahead

Storytelling takes preparation. You don’t want to get to the end of a great story and forget to mention your main point. Or forget the order of events in the story and end up rambling on for twice as long as you intended. Make sure your story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Make sure you are making a point with your story. And practice it in advance so the chronology is organized and you know how long it takes.

Follow these tips for telling a story and you’ll find your audience sitting impatiently on the edge of their seats, anticipating the exceptional presentation to come.

About the Author

Lisa Braithwaite works with individuals to uncover their challenges and build their strengths in presenting themselves confidently as speakers. Find your voice with public speaking coaching! Sign up for my newsletter and find out about my free consultation by visiting http://www.coachlisab.com.

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