As a professional speaker, I have experienced the power and privilege that story has on the lives of others. Organizations bring me in to share my story of overcoming physical challenges with their employees. I do this to teach people and organizations how to overcome challenges and perform at their best. It is a very transformational experience.
As a presentation coach clients often come to me with a story that they want to tell but are unsure of how to tell it. I firmly believe you need to tell your story. If you are having trouble with how to tell your story, then here are strategies to help get you started on your path.
- The story is not about you. It’s about your message for the audience. One of the mistakes many speakers make is that they focus on the beauty of their story and not the message or lesson the audience needs to learn from it. I understand that you have incredible experiences you want to share. Your experiences need to be shared but you must remember that the audience needs want to change something about themselves after listening to you. If they do not want to change, then at best you have been little more than an entertainer. Before you draft your speech, answer this question: what is it I want my audience to know or do as a result of my story.
- Keep the background information concise. The second mistake speakers make is that they spent a great deal of time discussing the background and setting of their story and not enough time on the conflict and audience solution. Keep characters to a minimum. Do not worry about letting the audience know every detail about the location of your story, or the meal you ate. Keep it simple. I tell my clients that as a general rule, the background details their speech should be no more than 10% of the total length. For example, a ten-minute speech would only spend one minute discussing the background details.
- Keep the language “you” focused. When speakers tell stories they are often doing so from the perspective of “me, me, me” if the story is about them, and “they, they, they” if the story is about another person such as a historical figure or a friend. Use words like “you” and “your” as much as possible. This brings the audience into your story with you and engages their personal thought patterns. Ask questions like “have you ever…..?” or “what would you do if….?” or incorporate it into your narration. For example, “You may have read that chocolate helps calm nerves but you’re wrong. The truth is you can calm nerves by,….” Finally, you can use you-focused language to invite the audience into a scene. “I want you to imagine….” or “If you drove in my first car you would have seen…..”.
- Get a coach. I have benefited from coaching in my career. Having somebody with expertise give you an outside perspective on your speech and offer guidance is invaluable. Don’t let the audience be the first people to give you feedback on your speech. If you would like to receive some feedback on your speech go to www.paulartale.com/coach to receive a 15 minute speech review free of charge.
You have a story that needs to be told. I challenge you to speak often about your story. Simply remember that your story is a vessel to transmit a message that will help people think differently, act differently, and change their lives. If you adopt this mindset your stories will inspire and inform the world for years to come.
Dr. Paul Artale is a motivational speaker, researcher, and presentation coach who helps phenomenal people tell phenomenal stories. As a Toastmaster Paul earned the prestigious Accredited Speaker designation; a designation only 87 people have earned in Toastmasters history. You can learn more about Paul by visiting www.paulartale.com
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