Storytelling In Public Speaking
Date: October 9, 2015
A good speech has meaning to it and is interesting to listen to. A good speech is like storytelling – it’s memorable and has different emotions to it. Everyone likes to hear stories and not just scattered pieces of information, because that feels like you’re at school again and being forced into listening.
It Has To Have A Point
If you’re telling a story just for the sake of telling a story, it won’t go anywhere, and after you’ve said it, there will be tension in the room and a lot of blank faces. It has to lead up to something and make sense to people.
Think of it as having three separate parts – a beginning, middle and end. Start with the end. What’s the resolution of the story? What’s the whole point of telling it? You have to either make your audience change their minds, or leave them pondering afterwards. Think about what you want your audience to take away when they leave the room.
It might help to think of your favourite film. Start with how it ends. This will help you to structure its story line so that everything leads up to that moment. The situations before it and the characters’ attitudes are all building up for the final moment.
If you want to leave people talking about you on their way home, think back to a TV series you’ve watched where you were left on the edge of your seat when a season finished.
The first part of your speech has to set the scene completely with descriptive language and attention to exciting detail. But, you have to get straight to the point and raise the important points in the opening of your speech. Don’t include unnecessary detail for the sake of it.
The second section has to elaborate on your main paints and build up to the final section. Include conflicts, main themes and create scenes. Talk about personal experiences and introduce people. Your audience will relate to people, not things. It might be tempting to exaggerate scenes for special effect, but keep it truthful and authentic or you risk your listeners not connecting to your story.
Talk about a story that includes personal experience to help your audience feel what you’re saying. If you talk about how something happened to you, they can bounce off your emotions and connect to you, but if you are telling someone else’s story, there’s no legitimate reason why you’re telling it. TV shows and films are stories, but you’re drawn into them because the writer’s give you all of the character and create scenes and put them in situations.
Help Your Audience Picture The Story
You can’t possibly expect your audience to picture the story if you aren’t creating scenes. Your goal is to help your listeners picture everything you’ve experienced.
Storytelling isn’t about telling factual information, but telling people the interesting and important parts of the story. Your audience couldn’t be there with you when it happened, but you want them to feel like they were there by painting a picture of the scenery. When writing the speech, ignore what happened at first and focus on where it happened, what the smells were, the weather, who was there, the time, and more. Although you don’t need to make a mention to all of these factors, attention to detail brings people in.
Show don’t tell. Rather than saying the weather was cold, show how the weather made you feel and what you wore. For example, the icy wind stabbed at her ears, to make your descriptions more enticing. Showing rather than telling also helps the audience to feel what you felt, rather than telling them how to feel.
Describe physical sensations like above to draw your audience in and use the tone of your voice to reflect the mood and emotions in the story. Like of the presentation like a drama performance, with ups and downs to the story, constantly taking your audience on a roller coaster ride.
Be careful with storytelling, because you don’t want it to be so descriptive and long that you bore people. Nor do you want to only tell a story, or worse, tell two or three stories in one presentation. Half of your presentation should be a story, no more, or you don’t get to touch on the core subjects you touched on.