HOW TO USE STORIES TO BRING YOUR PRESENTATION TO LIFE
By ANDREW BRAMMER
Have you ever read a novel you couldn’t put down, or watched a film you couldn’t turn off, or listened to an audio book which held you spellbound?
Why did they have that effect on you? Because they told a story. So if you want to captivate your audience when giving a speech or presentation – then you need to tell a story.
I will always remember going to a major conference some years ago. It was an all day event, with around 1500 people in the audience, and eight phenomenal speakers. They had it all – great stage presence, superb vocal delivery, exceptional body language, cutting edge humour.
When I got home, I was literally buzzing from listening to all those great presentations. The next week, I couldn’t wait to tell fellow members of my Toastmasters club all about the event.
‘Wow! You should have been there, what an event! The speakers were awesome,’ I enthused.
‘Sounds fantastic. What did they all speak about?’ someone asked.
‘Er, you know what? I can’t actually remember…’
That wasn’t 100% true – there was one speaker I could remember, and even to this day his points are still crystal clear in my memory. What made him different? He was the only speaker who had told stories to illustrate his points. That conference really hammered home the message – great speakers are great storytellers.
So, storytelling is an essential aspect of speech-making. Listen to most World Champion speakers, and the one thing they have in common is that they tell a story or stories in their winning speeches.
Listen to great motivational or inspirational or business speakers, and the very best ones have one thing in common – they all use stories to illustrate their main points.
Why is this?
Most of us as human beings have listened to and loved stories from a very young age. Stories are an intrinsic part of our human nature. They link our hearts and minds to those of the characters contained in them; they create emotional connections and bonds for us. When we listen to a powerful and dynamic story, we become transfixed, rooted, and the teller is able to fully engage with and appeal to our emotions.
We love stories because we always enjoy listening to how the characters resolve conflicts (every story has to have conflict, whereby the main character encounters obstacles and difficult situations that need to be overcome).
Even more importantly, we empathise with those characters who face similar, or greater, real life challenges than the ones we face.
Stories also work because they engage both sides of the human brain. The left hand side, which is the logical side, likes structure and order, and a good story has a definite beginning, middle, and end, and is well structured. The right hand side of the brain, which is the creative side, is stimulated by artistic works: poetry, music, art, and stories.
You could almost say then, that a good story appeals to the whole head, something that data and figures, graphs and charts on their own will never achieve.
Furthermore, stories feed the need for the audience to be entertained. Whatever the objective of your speech is – be it to move, motivate, inspire, inform, uplift, change the way your listeners think, or simply make them laugh – the audience has to be entertained. Using stories helps you to achieve this, for stories fire the audience’s imagination and paints pictures for them.
There are many different techniques, disciplines and practices to study and use when writing and telling a story, and if you are using longer stories, the scope for expansion and development is considerable. By practising your presentation in front of a friendly audience you can learn how to develop and structure your story and weave it into your speech.
Personal stories are often the most powerful stories, for they are uniquely your own and can be spoken with real passion and from the heart. Also, no-one else knows them!
However, whatever type of story you do choose to tell, be sure to include drama and conflict, powerful characters, and vivid descriptions so your story will dynamically come alive and your characters will live and breathe.
This will enable you to make a strong empathetic connection with your audience, and you will have a far greater chance of having your message remembered, than if you were just regurgitating facts and figures or reams of data or simply delivering random motivational quotes.
About Andrew Brammer
Andrew is a member of Toastmasters International where he holds the highest qualification of Distinguished Toastmaster.
About Toastmasters International
Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organization’s membership exceeds 292,000 in more than 14,350 clubs in 122 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are over 250 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7000 members. To find your local club: www.toastmasters.org Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.