One of the most valuable presentation skills that a presenter can develop is the power of stories.
When I was about six-years-old, I stole a dollar from my dad’s nightstand. When he found out what I had done, he sat me down and told me a story about how when he was a young man, he and an army buddy were a little short on cash, so before they went on a weekend leave, they borrowed (stole) about $0.25 worth of gasoline from the base pumps and headed into town. The MP’s caught up with them before they got off the base and if it hadn’t been for a very understanding commanding officer, he and his buddy would still be serving time in a military stockade. He said that according to the army, the value of the theft doesn’t matter, it is the action itself that created the consequences.
Throughout my lifetime, my dad has offered me countless pieces of advice, but it would be very difficult for me to try to remember specific individual lessons that he taught me. But I do remember that story. Telling a personal story is a great way to capture the attention of your audience, and stories have a magical longevity that sticks with people much longer than a lecture or an order.
In an article in Training and Development Magazine titled Leadership Through Storytelling, the author tells us that “People like to hear stories and they tend to repeat them.
“In business [presentations] as well as in other settings, storytelling works as a useful technique to
- “Capture people’s attention
- Send a message people will remember
- Establish rapport
- Build credibility
- Bring a team closer together”
Our audience relates to storytelling because when we hear a story, we tend to relate the story to something from our own personal experience. For instance, if I told you about a friend of mine who was killed in a drunk driving accident, your subconscious mind tries to relate the story to a personal experience of your own. So you may subconsciously search through stored memories to find a similar incident from your own life. You might remember a time when you had a little too much to drink, a time when someone you knew had a little too much to drink and got behind the wheel, or you might remember a time when you saw a film in high school about drunk driving. The storytelling process builds credibility with your audience because your audience’s own memories verify the truth of the original story. By doing this, the story helps build rapport between you and your audience like magic.
"If you want to dazzle your audience, tell more personal stories." - Doug Staneart
So how to we find suitable personal stories? All we have to do is ask ourselves a series of questions such as, “When did I first realize that the point that I am trying to make in my talk was valid?” or “When was the last time I took this advice myself?” By asking yourself questions like this, you can quickly add powerful stories to your presentations and iquickly improve your presentation skills.
The tips above are only valuable if you create the habit of using them on a consistent basis. The Fearless Presentations ® class is a step-by-step approach to consciously and consistently applying these and other presentation skills to reduce fear and nervousness. If you feel fear, nervousness, or anxiety when you speak, please take a look at attending one of our classes. We offer them every couple of months in major cities all over the world!