Have you ever read a novel you couldn’t put down, or watched a film you couldn’t turn off, or listened to an audio book which held you spellbound?
Why did they have that effect on you? They told a story.
Storytelling is an essential aspect of speech-making. Listen to most World Champion speakers, and the one thing they have in common is that they tell a story or stories in their winning speeches.
Listen to great motivational or inspirational or business speakers, and the very best ones have one thing in common – they all use stories to illustrate their main points.
Why is this?
Most of us as human beings have listened to and loved stories from a very young age. Stories are an intrinsic part of our human nature. They link our hearts and minds to those of the characters contained in them; they create emotional connections and bonds for us.
We love stories because we always enjoy listening to how the characters resolve conflicts (every story has to have conflict, whereby the main character encounters obstacles and difficult situations that need to be overcome).
Even more importantly, we empathise with characters who face similar, or greater, real life challenges than the ones we face.
Stories also work because they engage both sides of the human brain. The left hand side, which is the logical side, likes structure and order. The right hand side of the brain, which is the creative side, is stimulated by artistic works.
A good story appeals to the whole head, something that data and figures, graphs and charts on their own will never achieve.
Furthermore, stories feed the need for the audience to be entertained. Whatever the objective of your speech is – be it to move, motivate, inspire, inform, uplift, change the way your listeners think, or simply make them laugh – the audience has to be entertained. Using stories helps you to achieve this, for stories fire the audience’s imagination and paints pictures for them.
Personal stories are often the most powerful stories, for they are uniquely your own and can be spoken with real passion and from the heart. Also, no-one else knows them!
However, whatever type of story you do choose to tell, be sure to include drama and conflict, powerful characters, and vivid descriptions so your story will dynamically come alive and your characters will live and breathe.
This will enable you to make a strong empathetic connection with your audience, and you will have a far greater chance of having your message remembered, than if you were just regurgitating facts and figures or reams of data or simply delivering random motivational quotes.
Andrew Brammer is available for interview and articles and can offer advice and tips on creating and using stories in presentations.
Andrew is a member of Toastmasters International where he holds the highest qualification of Distinguished Toastmaster. In 2000 he won the UK and Ireland Humorous Speech Championship. See: http://speakingwords.co.uk/