Monday, May 17, 2010

6 smart things a story adds to your speech

You've heard it's good to tell stories, and storytelling's a sought-after skill among those seeking public speaking training--but why?  Here are 6 great reasons, all of them concrete advantages that stories add to your speeches and presentations:
  1. Stories expand your point.  Stories are the ultimate example, a key part of any presentation. Try making your point, adding a relevant fact or two, then using a story to expand on it.  You may start with a universal truth, backed up by national data, and expand on it with a personal tale, bringing the large point down to a human level.
  2. Stories can add color, emotion and personal detail.  The factors that move audiences are often the small, emotive details found in stories.  And stories are an easy, natural place for you to talk about yourself, making you more approachable and likeable as a presenter.  When you're establishing a rapport with the audience, stories speed the process.
  3. Stories add drama.  You may be describing a hero's quest in your profession or the tale of woe of someone who ignored the facts and paid the price, but stories, well told, can add drama and help your presentation progress to a successful finish.
  4. You can tell stories without using notes--and look more relaxed and spontaneous.  Never waste time writing down a personal story or anecdote--the written version will never come across as well as it will if you just look at the audience and tell the story. If it's an experience you know well, you won't need notes and you'll look more confident.
  5. Stories let you instruct without lecturing:  You can push your points directly with an audience you're trying to educate--but only so far.  And if they harbor not-so-fond memories of school days, they may start squirming rather than absorb your wisdom.  But a story that anyone can relate to can carry your points for you, in a non-threatening, non-confrontational way.
  6. We're used to learning from stories.  Whether it's your mother's tales of her childhood lessons learned or parables and allegories, storytelling is an ancient method for sharing information with a broad public audience--and it survives today for a reason.  Your audience will respond positively to a good story.
UPDATE:  Voice coach and trainer Kate Peters was nice enough to reference this post in her own good one, all about "When You Must Read Aloud" -- excellent tips here!

Related posts:  Make storytelling compelling with details

A speechwriter's secrets for storytelling

Need to wing it? Tell a story