Dump The Data and Tell Me A Story

Fearless-what every presenter wants to be.  Overcoming public speaking jitters is often as simple as dumping the data, and telling stories.  Stacking your brain with statistics, or dumping them onto a slide guarantees one thing – your audience will disconnect.  However, when a speaker turns boring statistics into real life stories he or she makes the audience sit up and listen, “appreciate” not “tolerate” his presentation.

During our two day program, Fearless Presentations, one participant said, “I like how telling “the story” actually helped get the information out to the audience.  It made giving a presentation in front of a group easier.”  Using that technique, her stories brought out the best in her as a presenter – her personality.

My personal rule during presentations is – every set of data deserves a good story – a story that you can claim, and bring to life.  A really good story helps your audience understand the data.  Drawing on shared emotions and experiences, stories creates rapport, interest in your subject, and buy in.  The more stories you tell – the more persuasive your speech becomes, and the more relaxed and powerful you become as a speaker.  If you want the audience to listen and believe you – tell the story behind the facts.  I  learned this early on as a young news reporter, and practice it every time I speak.

Dump the data – tell me a story.

Statistics are just a bunch of easily forgotten numbers, unless you give them a face and heart

Example:  Pearl Harbor Day

I looked down at the assignment in my hands “Pearl Harbor Day – Veteran.”  I wanted to take a different angle.  I wanted to explain the data through the eyes of a Japanese-American, county commissioner.  My news director liked the idea, and after much persuasion, Commissioner George Shiozowa, agreed.  No data set could tell the

Soldiers with guns, searched our house, taking family documents and photos, all the kitchen knives and my pearl-handled pocketknife, a treasured gift from my uncle.  We hoped it was over.  We were wrong.  They loaded us like cattle into the backs of trucks and took us away.  I was so frightened I did not speak for days.  Finally we reached the Idaho desert.  We were penned like animals behind barbed wire in the Idaho desert, while my brothers fought the Japanese.”

If you call me twenty years from now I will not recall the facts, that 2,117 Americans died at Pearl Harbor, or that 120,000 Japanese-Americans, men, women and children, were locked behind barbed wire in the desert.  (I had to re-research those facts.)  I will, however, be able to tell you the story of a ten year old Japanese-American boy who was taken prisoner by his own country because he looked like the enemy.

Behind every group of facts, data set, or event there is a powerful story.  Look inside your “life catalogue” flip through the pages.  Whatever principle you want to express – there is a story or example for it, a human look at otherwise heartless information.

Your personal stories will bring richness to your presentation, and understanding to your audience.  You are the only one who can tell them, because you have lived them.  Your stories  are unique, interesting and a powerful way to make your point, and persuade your audience to your point of view.  If you want to “wow” your audience – tell more stories.  By Connie Timpson/ Sr. Instructor/Performance Coach/The Leader’s Institute


Author: Doug Staneart, Date Published: 02/05/11

Doug Staneart is the CEO of The Leader's Institute. LLC and founder of the Fearless Presentations class. He is author of Fearless Presentations, Mastering Presentations, and 28 Ways to Influence People.

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