Wednesday, October 10, 2012

7 secret advantages of the story-telling speaker

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 7 great reasons, all of them advantages you may have missed in considering what 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 build connection by adding color, emotion and personal detail about you.  The factors that move audiences are often the small, emotive details found in stories. 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, or a story about a terrible tragedy. In all cases, 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. If you're a speaker who works from a text, but would like to look more extemporaneous, work in a story or two that you can tell without reading. Then make sure your text says "Tell [name of story] here."
  5. Stories let you instruct or negotiate without lecturing:  You can push your points directly with an audience you're trying to educate, or with parties involved in a negotiation--but only so far. If they harbor not-so-fond memories of school days, they may start squirming rather than absorb your wisdom.  If the negotiation's tense, confrontive facts don't always help your cause, even if they are right. But a story to which anyone can relate can carry your points for you and even bring warring parties together, 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.
  7. Stories were made to be remembered and retold.  Before we wrote things down, our cultures all used storytelling to convey news and information, because stories could be easily remembered and passed along to the next person. If you want your audience to do the same with your talk, craft a story that gets your main points across briefly, so that it's easy to remember and repeat.
(This post updates and expands on one I published in 2010.)