Speeches Are Stories
Speeches are stories. Therefore, public speakers must learn to become storytellers. People are just naturally wired to respond to stories, which is why we flock to movies, buy books, and watch television. If you pay attention you will notice that some of the best conversations happen between people who are telling each other stories.
There is an art to great storytelling, and some are natural but anyone can master it. There are simple components that will make your speech as interesting and attention-grabbing as any Hollywood blockbuster.
A good story holds the listeners’ interest, builds feelings of connection between narrator and audience, and provides a satisfying conclusion
In other words, these are the three ingredients to a good story. A good story must:
- Hold Interest
- Build Connection
- Provide a Satisfying Conclusion.
I’ve got lots of advice for mastering each of the three ingredients. Let’s dive in!
Start With A Hook: Start your story with the most interesting thing about it, but don’t give away the ending! You want to grab your audience right away and keep them listening. Think about the James Bond franchise. They start with the action and draw the audience in from the git go.
Add Bait: If you go fishing and wish to catch a fish, you won’t cast your line and throw a clean hook into the water. You need bait if you want to catch fish. The same goes for a speech. Give people a reason to listen. Answer the question “What’s in it for me?” Tell them what they will gain from listening to you.
Have A Point To The Story: Try to keep in your mind WHY you are talking and stick to the point. Have notes to keep you on track so that you don’t go off on a tangent.
Show, Don’t Tell: Having visual aids is a great way to keep your audience engaged but even without visual aids, you can build visual imagery in the minds of your audience. Storytelling is the art of telling a story in such a way that you take your audience to the scene. Use your body language and your voice to build rich imagery.
Use Vivid Details, Not Lots Of Facts: You know that you yourself lose interest when someone starts droning on with a lot of statistics. The best way to keep an audience’s attention is to give them vivid details, appealing to as many of their senses as you possibly can.
Build A Connection: Make yourself relatable to your audience. Pay attention to what they seem most interested in, and make it personal by adding little tidbits about yourself. Which leads to my next point…
Tell Personal Stories, But Cautiously: You want to be a relatable storyteller. What you DON’T want is to be a braggart. Telling stories about ways that you may have screwed up is just as important as highlighting your successes; it makes you more human to your audience.
Share Firsthand Thoughts & Feelings: You want to let people know what you thought and what you went through to get where you are. They’re probably in that place right now.
Provide A Satisfying Conclusion: This speaks for itself. Let your audience know that no matter how tough the challenge, there’s always hope. In our “Mess to Message” template, we encourage people to share their mistakes, what they learned and then what they can teach. You can only teach what you first learn.
When You’re Finished, Stop: Don’t talk past the close. A joke has a punch line and your speech should end with a powerful line that sticks with your audience. We call it the S.T.A.R. line. It stands for Something To Always Remember. If you have used a repetitive key phrase like Martin Luther-King Jnr. did in his “I have a Dream” speech, you’d end with that phrase. Make it strong, make it memorable and deliver it with aplomb.