What’s True for You?
Have you ever seen a speaker who really moved you? Do you remember what he or she was talking about? My guess is that the speaker was sharing a personal story. If you’ve ever attended a fundraising dinner, you likely heard a personal story about one of the people who would benefit from your donation. Chances are, that story was delivered right from the person who experienced it. The reason for this is because stories are powerful. We are emotional beings who have the ability to empathize and internalize other people’s struggles and triumphs. These stories touch us in a way that data and facts never can and never will. For this reason, making your talk personal by including your own experiences will increase the impact and overall experience for your audience. Here are a few ways to include your stories in a presentation.
1. Think about how this subject has touched your life
As a public speaking trainer, I have a lot of stories to share about my own public speaking journey. I could easily focus on the techniques and strategies to becoming an excellent speaker, but I often include my own story of being a self-professed “shy girl” who was once terrified of getting on stage. After joining Toastmasters International and giving hundreds of speeches, I started to manage my fear. When I started a business in 2009, I used free workshops as my #1 form of marketing. After doing enough workshops, I started to get paid for it and became a professional speaker. If I didn’t sign up for Toastmasters 10 years ago, I wouldn’t be a trainer of speakers today.
I often share this story because it shows my trainees that I had to start somewhere, just like they have to. I empathize with their fear of speaking and recognize that it’s not easy. Instead of telling them that flat out, I instead tell the story of how I became a speaker, and that helps them understand where I’ve been and how I got here. This is a good way to relate to your audience and show them what is possible.
2. Use a story to illustrate your point
If you have been in your profession for a while, you probably have lots of success stories. Use one of those stories to drive home your point. For example, if you are trying to teach your audience new sales skills, you could share a story about using one of those sales skills with a customer and how it turned out. The story acts as another way of teaching while also reinforcing what you want them to know. You can also share stories about other people, like when someone else used a sales strategy on you and how you responded.
3. Start with a story for impact
If you watch TED talks, you probably already know that many speakers start with a story to bring their audience into their talk to inspire them or get them thinking right away. Storytelling is a great way to start a speech because it’s personal and brings your audience into your talk faster than most other ways. Could you imagine if someone started off a speech by saying, “Today, we’re going to talk about how to pave a driveway”? What if, instead, they said, “My father had the most interesting job when I was growing up. He owned more trucks and machines than any of my friends’ dads, and he was always traveling to new places. Some might say paving driveways and roads isn’t the most fascinating work, but when I was a kid, I thought my dad was the coolest guy in the world.” This story tells us something about the speaker while also bringing us into how he thinks. We’re instantly engaged and want to know what this talk is about. Why are we learning about his dad? Why does he have so many trucks? Where does he go with those trucks? Why is he so cool? By adding in simple stories like this one, you build a bond quickly and give your audience a reason to keep listening.
Experiment with stories by including a new one every time you speak. You may find that you like telling some stories more than others. Create a bank of your favorites and try to tell them as often as possible. You’ll start to become known for them, and you’ll get better at telling them every time. Your audience will thank you for bringing in an emotional element by being engaged in your words and giving you the attention you deserve as the speaker.
Next time, we’ll cover the importance of improvising when you’re on stage so you can react to what is needed in each moment, rather than stick to a plan that may not be working.
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