Without story-examples, your presentation becomes pure ‘theory.’ The audience is not seeing any mental imagery. But engage their minds and imaginations, and you will keep them with you. Not only are stories the meat in your talk, but they can be an economical way of summarising complex points. Effective speakers often meet people who have heard them present in the past and receive comments like, ‘I remember that story you told about…’ People rarely say, ‘I remember the point you made.’ It’s the story they remember. And yet, the point is inherent to the story. If they remember the story, they have got the point.
Effective public speaking is simply this: Make a point, tell a story. Make another point, tell another story, and so on.
Finding stories is not as difficult as it may seem. You can draw on small, amusing incidents from home or work; just the ordinary stuff of daily life. In order to make a point about having differing goals, one speaker told a story that went like this: ‘One morning, while my wife and I were travelling abroad, I awoke early on the 18th floor of the hotel. I’m a morning person, but my wife isn’t. I wanted her to come and look at the beautiful sunrise from the balcony, but she had asked me to let her sleep in. Still, it was so beautiful that I thought I’d awaken her anyway. So I pulled the blankets off the bed, grabbed her by the leg, and said, ‘Honey, come and look at this right now!’ . . . And you know what? She said something that hurt my feelings . . . !’
This story is nothing extravagant, but it illustrated the point about two people having differing goals. I often relate the story of my first day presenting on radio, and the chaos surrounding my first show. I can make a myriad of points with that story – everything from the importance of training in communications skills, to points about career planning.
Start to collect your own stories in a file. Bear in mind that all stories require a few basic ingredients. They must have conflict, and a resolution to that conflict. ‘Conflict’ could be something as simple as the cross-purposes in the story about the man and wife in a hotel, with him wanting her to see the sunrise, and her wanting to sleep on. Resolution is simply the outcome of that conflict.
Take to heart the maxim of every good writer: ‘Don’t tell – show!’ Don’t summarise an incident – paint the picture. Public speaking is simply this: Tell a story, make a point. Use stories liberally, and learn to tell them well. They are your greatest ally in effective communication.