People throughout the world have told stories for centuries - as a way of passing down history to the next generation, to share experiences, to teach children the skills of life and for pure entertainment. Garr Reynolds says in his book Presentation Zen, ‘Information plus emotion and visualization wrapped in unforgettable anecdotes are the stuff that stories are made of.’ Using these elements in the stories in your presentation can help give it an edge and will ensure it is memorable and talked about long after your talk is over.
When I entered the Toastmasters International Speech Competition in 2012, I believe the reason my talk was so effective and kept winning at each level of the competition was due to the fact that it incorporated three simple stories. People could identify with the individual characters in each story and the way that certain words and phrases had affected their lives. When I revealed at the end that one of the stories was in fact my own experience it gave the talk an added element of surprise and an even deeper connection with the audience. Every time I did the talk people were keen to share with me afterwards their own similar experience of how a careless comment from someone had affected them throughout their life. The speech made the audience really think about the impact their own careless words may have on others. This was the outcome I had intended and it would have not been achieved so effectively without utilising the power of stories.
Here are five reasons why you should consider including stories in your next presentation:
Stories help to engage your audience People love stories; we have grown up hearing stories and we are generally very open to listening to a well told story. Regardless of what the topic is, people enjoy a presentation more when it is engaging and entertaining and therefore will be more receptive to your message if you include stories.
Stories help you to illustrate your point If you are speaking about an abstract point that your audience may have difficulty relating to, incorporating a story to demonstrate it in a real circumstance will help your audience more readily identify with and understand the point.
Stories help your message to stick Stories invoke an emotional connection for people and it is this connection that makes it more memorable. If you make your audience feel something, whether that be through laughing at a funny anecdote or tearing up due to your poignant recollection of a tragic experience, they are far more likely to remember your message.
Stories help to put facts and figures in context We live in an age when almost anyone can find and access almost any information they need. But information is not worth anything unless it is put into context; stories can help with this. Stories that explain your interpretation of data or give perspective to the information can make it relevant and meaningful, and therefore more engaging for your audience.
Stories help you remember your presentation If you speak about a personal experience you can tell a story from the heart; when you know a story from the inside and it is meaningful to you personally you don’t have to remember it. You can speak of what you know rather than have to learn something new; the story is part of you and it flows easily because you have lived it. This ensures that your delivery is natural and authentic.
In a future post I’ll talk about what makes a good story. In the meantime, what do you think are the benefits of using stories in your public speaking? How do you use stories to enhance your presentations?
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