How Storytelling can make your speech more Effective?

Storytelling in Public Speaking is a creative way to grab the audience's attention. It is a powerful method to create an impact on the audience as it works in the same way as our favourite book/movie does:

Stories build interest by introducing a protagonist in a challenging journey, reaching a resolution with an improved reality. Didn't we all watch the complete Harry Potter series because we wanted to see Harry defeat Voldemort?

Stories build chemical, physical, and emotional responses in listeners. When stories make people feel things like trust or kindness, the brain releases oxytocin, which motivates cooperation by enhancing empathy. This means that through stories people become more likely to adopt new ideas and act based on those ideas.

In her book Resonate, Nancy Duarte gives several examples of presenters who mastered the art of storytelling to sway their audiences. Two such instances and examples which show the effective impact brought by incorporating stories in speeches and presentations are:

Tech giant Cisco Systems used to deliver fact-heavy presentations to promote their products. However, when they stopped listing features and started telling stories, they became much more effective and successful. By narrating the story of a small, struggling, local business owner who grew his company from scratch enabled Cisco to humanize information about technology and make their benefits more relatable.

Next, Pastor John Ortberg was able to move the congregation members to believe in the message “people can bring the Kingdom of Heaven to this Earth by showing love” by going beyond simply delivering relevant lines from Scripture and telling a story about his little sister, who loved a ragged doll so wholeheartedly she was able to convince everyone in her life that the doll was beautiful and valuable.

While these two presenters are very different from one another, they have one thing in common: they both used stories to make their presentation resonate with their audience.
When we tell stories, we are conversational. We smile, use good body language, make eye contact and in short try everything that builds trust with our listeners. If you start your presentation like that, you preempt any chance of anxiety or presentation jitters to get the better of you. Your audience immediately starts to give you positive feedback through smiles, reactions, attentiveness. This boosts up your confidence.

Following are the ways to incorporate storytelling into public speaking and presentations:

1. A protagonist who walks into the unknown

Odysseus in the Odyssey, Simba in The Lion King, Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, and Harry Potter in the Harry Potter books. The protagonist’s journey is the best storytelling device. It has a recognizable and an easy digestible structure.

The hero’s journey is a monomyth — which is a pattern that many believe can be found in almost every narrative around the world. There is a moment in every story where the character overcomes reluctance to change, leaves the ordinary world, and crosses the threshold into an adventure in a special world. In the special world, the hero gains skills and insights – and then brings them back to the ordinary world as the story resolves.
If you are presenting a product/service, you can choose to tell the founder's story or  of any member of your firm who has put in a lot of effort into that product or service and whose life story is inspiring. You can tell about the hardships faced and the resulting success. This will move your audience and build a sense of connection with them.

When you build your presentation’s story, position your audience as the hero. They are the ones who must cross the threshold to enter into an adventure of using your product or service. You are the one to dare and encourage them to slay the dragons that plague them by creating doubts in you or your firm. Finally, your ideas and the content of your presentation can guide them through their quest to reach a better resolution by choosing your idea/product/service.

2. Creating suspense, use contrast

Effective use of contrast keeps people guessing “What next?”
First, you paint a picture of the hero’s reality which is your audience. Then, explain what the future could be if listeners adopt your ideas. By pointing out the gap between what is and what could be, you build a sense of suspense in your audience.

Listeners wait to hear how they will be able to bridge that gap. Ultimately, if you do a good job in showing how your ideas bridge the gap between the present and the better future, audience members will start believing in your ideas. They will eventually adopt it.

3.Personal story!

So, while you’re not the hero of the story you are telling in a presentation or a speech – you are the mentor to that hero. Thus, it’s important for you to incorporate personal stories or anecdotes about your own experience in order to create common ground with the people listening to you. Common ground creates empathy, and this makes people more likely to listen to you and take action after your presentation. Stage fright often stems from fear of making a mistake or forgetting to say something. Telling a story, especially a personal one, doesn’t take a lot of memorization or practice; you already know it and you may have already told it a dozen of times.

Use your own stories to become relatable to your audience. You want them to empathize with you because they’ll trust you and will want to adopt your ideas. However, you must first figure out what personal information that you have in your arsenal will be relevant to your audience. It is  important to get to know them first. 

There are several ways you can get to know your audience:

Splitting  them into sub-segments:

Split your audience into sub-segments (by profession, geographic location, age, etc.). Then focus on speaking to the group who you are most likely to relate to and win over.

Send out audience surveys:

You can send out surveys to audience members long before your presentation to get a better sense of who they are and what they care about.

Build personas: To get to the heart of your audience members, do some research. Ask yourself in-depth questions about them, like: What do they value? How do they spend their free time? What are they afraid of? What are their ultimate goals?

Once you’ve collected helpful information from your audience, look at that information and notice where it overlaps with your experiences. Do you have a story about a similar fear, value or goal? Weave that story into a narrative to show that you’re not just blowing smoke but can relate to where they’re coming from.

If you want to succeed as a speaker, you need to be good at telling relatable stories to your audience. However, you must not try to be solely a good storyteller. Instead, you should give your listeners something that will enrich their lives from the richness of your own life or someone else’s.

The Importance of Storytelling Presentation Skills:

Storytelling in presentations isn’t just a way to keep your audience entertained although it does that effectively. However, storytelling is also a useful device for creating an empathetic audience that trusts you. It is also a way to keep your listeners engaged to your words. It is a motivating factor for action. By combining hard-to-process, dense, and somewhat scary facts with stories, you can influence a large crowd. By developing your storytelling presentation skills, you will observe your increasing effectiveness in convincing people that your ideas are worth adopting.

Most people organize their talks in a list of information. For instance, five reasons to join our exciting investment program. Unfortunately, the human mind is not constructed to remember lists very well. Yet everyone who has heard, seen, or read Romeo and Juliet once remembers it story very well.

Hence, if you give speeches more like Shakespeare and less like a phone book, you’ll able to ensure interest and retention from your audience.

- Kashish Goel


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How Storytelling can make your speech more Effective? How Storytelling can make your speech more Effective? Reviewed by EMN on March 26, 2019 Rating: 5

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