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‹ View all articles8th April 2013

3 storytelling secrets for public speaking

Public Speaking Essentials

The best speakers often use stories as a powerful tool for demonstrating and bringing to life a key message. It's one of the best ways to be memorable. And a really juicy story will keep the audience on the edge of their seats... quite literally.  Here's how to incorporate storytelling in public speaking.

So what's the secret to telling great stories to use in public speaking?

Storytelling secret 1: Evoke in the minds of your audience.

Stories don't work when the audience can't visualise what a speaker is talking about. We get lost if things are too dry or abstract.

Aim to create an image or stimulate the senses in some key way. Really effective storytelling allows the audience to put themselves into a situation that you’re describing.  If they can’t see it or touch it or taste it, then your story won’t be as effective because they won’t be as interactive with the information you’re providing them with.

Good storytelling looks less towards factual information such as what and when and how and more towards sensory information. One little detail that just seems to bring things alive, something that helps to see the color or the smell or the temperature of the situation.

Think of it as showing the audience versus telling. You could say “He wasn’t a very nice man.” Or… you could show them by saying “He stormed out, slammed the door, and kicked the cat.” “Show” the audience and they'll fill in the rest of the details from their own life experience.

Storytelling secret 2. Speak from within the experience.

When you’re telling your story, try not to speak from OUTSIDE the experience using memorized words. Speak from within the experience, using personal perspective to help the audience feel, see, and hear what YOU feel about your topic.

Let’s say you’re talking about a dramatic experience you had travelling in India.  You wouldn’t LEARN those lines. You wouldn’t need to. You would hop into your jeep, heart pounding, fumbling with your keys, palms sweating as a tiger tries to attack you and your trusty jeep just simply doesn’t want to start.  As you tell your story you bring your audience with you on your trip… experiencing the three dimensions together as if they were just happening.

There’s a very big difference (and the audience can always tell) from reliving your experience and reading from a script. Sharing your story from a multi-dimensional angle means that as you tell it… you can go into any little side detail at any given moment. The audience can see think and feel what you’re feeling because it’s YOUR story, your perception, your senses that are being shared.

Storytelling secret 3: Start with the end in mind.

Great storytelling has a purpose.

It’s not just telling stories for the stories sake, it has an end point that means something for the audience.  Don’t just tell a story because you think it’s fascinating for yourself, always ask yourself “What is it that I want my audience to get out of this story by the end of it?”  Work your way to the end point of your story from its very beginning.


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