Feel nervous about speaking in public? Tell a personal story in your speech (early), and you can reduce public speaking fear dramatically. One of the first public speaking secrets that we share in our public speaking training classes is that stories are your friend.
When you tell a story, you reduce presentation jitters and build rapport with your audience. Don’t believe me? Watch any professional motivational speaker on YouTube. You will find that their entire speech is composed of a series of individual stories that they link together. In this post, we will cover some of the major benefits of telling stories as well as the best way to do it.
Major Benefits of Telling Stories in a Presentation
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, when you tell a story in your speech, you are presenting a series of pictures. These pictures magically appear in the minds of the audience. This is where true communication occurs. The human mind thinks in pictures. So, when a speaker is able to create this series of images in the audience’s mind that is similar to the picture in the presenter’s head, the speaker has communicated effectively. Stories are a powerful tool to capture and hold the audience’s attention.
Storytelling skills are easy to master as well. After you identify the important concepts you want to cover in your speech, recall instances from your own experiences where that concept was true. Just play the mental movie in your head of that memory. To tell the story to your audience, just describe this movie in enough detail that your movie also plays for the audience as well.
More on this in part 3, Remember Stories to Insert Into Your Presentations.
Details in a story are important. However, more words are not necessarily required to generate more details. For instance, I will give you a couple of common first names. These two names should generate an image in your mind similar to the one in my mind. Here goes… Ralph Lauren. Most likely, you immediately saw an image of a Polo rider on a horse. Try this one. Betsy Ross. Most likely, you are seeing the US flag with the 13 stars in a circle. The point is that the descriptions that we give access a shared bond with the audience member. When you tell a story in your presentation, you strengthen that bond. You can create a series of these connections.
When You Tell a Story in Your Speech, You Reduce Nervousness
Many people fear losing their train of thought when presenting. “What happens if I forget something?” This public speaking fear is typically caused by trying to cover too much content without inserting enough examples or stories. Storytelling is incredibly simple. All that you really have to do is remember an incident from your experience. Then replay the video in your head of what happened. Finally, just tell your audience what you are seeing in the video. It is really easy.
A few weeks ago a class member tell me, “I’m just not good at telling stories.”
I was a little confused. I was wondering what on Earth could have happened to this guy to make him think that he wasn’t a good storyteller. However, I didn’t argue with him. I just said, “Just out of curiosity, when you were younger, did you ever have a brush with the law?”
He thought for a second. “When I was in school, I got a ticket for public intoxication.”
I said, “Really? Tell me about it.” It took a little coaxing, but in the next three minutes, he had us all laughing with him. He told us about how an error in judgment led to him doing community service for a month.
Next, I asked him about the project he was currently working on. “What is the biggest challenge that your team has encountered on the project so far?” He answered. I then just asked him to tell me how they fixed it. He spoke for almost five minutes.
When he finished, I just reminded him that each of those examples was an interesting story. In addition, he was able to tell each of those examples to the group without any practice or preparation.
You can, too, by the way
During a Presentation, Stories are Less Argumentative than Facts and Data.
A big bonus, by the way, is that when you relay personal stories, you are reciting personal experiences. Hence, you are the only one who really knows what happened. No one in the audience can challenge you on it. So telling an effective story is a great way to get your important points across to create a positive emotional connection with the audience. Human beings love to play “Devil’s Advocate.” We love to argue and find fault. However, we also love a compelling story with a happy ending. When we hear one, we tend to be less argumentative.
Here Is an Example of How Great Storytelling Can Make You a More Persuasive Speaker.
For instance, Let’s say that you looked at the last 100 reports your team created and found that nine of the reports had some type of error. Each error seemed to be a result of improper keying. (Someone mistyped a digit or letter.) You could just tell the audience that 9% of their reports had errors. That is a true statement. That statement will also likely cause the audience to become defensive and argumentative. However, an effective way to make the statement more palatable is to tell a story in your speech before making the statement.
Yesterday, I had a client where the decision-maker changed. All the other data was exactly the same, but there was a new name, email, and phone number. Unfortunately, our system doesn’t allow us to duplicate a contact’s listing. So, I had to add a new listing and copy/paste the data from one listing to the other. About halfway through this very simple process, I got a return call from a client. The call only took a couple of minutes, but it interrupted my duplication effort. I didn’t realize until I printed out the new contract that I inadvertently inserted the old contact’s email address into the new listing.
I went back add did a spot-check of the last 100 reports that we have completed. It turns out that nine of the 100 reports had errors similar to the one that I had created.
If you deliver a fact, human nature makes us want to play “Devil’s Advocate.” But, by telling a story first, we reduce the chance of the audience trying to challenge our data. (For additional details about this, make sure to access the post about How to Persuade an Audience. I go through a series of short presentations using examples to persuade.)
The Audience Will Like You More When You Insert Stories into Your Presentation.
One of the best ways to build rapport with your audience is to tell a story in your speech. It’s funny. We are doing a lot more social media at Fearless Presentations ®. One of the things that my social media expert keeps telling me is that people really want to see the behind-the-scenes stuff that we do. I had a whirlwind travel schedule a couple of weeks ago. I had to fly from Dallas to New Jersey. Then from New Jersey, I flew to Las Vegas with a connection in Charlotte. Next, I flew from Las Vegas to Portland via LAX. Finally, I flew home on a red-eye at midnight.
On each leg of the trip, I just posted a Facebook Live about what I was doing. We got more views on those live videos than we have on the last dozen articles and videos that we posted.
What is funny is that concept of what I was doing on social media is what we have been teaching in public speaking for years. Those short stories and examples let your audience know the real you. They make the audience care about you. We become the main character in the stories about our personal lives. Good stories are a very simple way to get our audiences to like us more.
Motivational speakers know this. That is why the most sought-after professional speakers are masters of telling stories in their speeches.
How to Tell a Story in Your Speech
The important thing to keep in mind is that getting to a story in your presentation quickly is the easiest way to reduce the fear of public speaking. However, stories also get your key message across without creating an argument. They are also a good way to get your audience to like you more. So it is a good idea to insert stories into your next presentation.
In the next post, I will share a few public speaking secrets of great storytellers that will allow you more easily tell a story. In addition, I will show you a way to keep track of great stories. This will allow you to better use them in future presentations!
For additional help, make sure to visit our 101 public speaking tips for professionals blog post.