As an executive speech coach I’ve had corporate speakers bring me sheets of statistics and say, “Here’s what I want to talk about.”
“Why should your audience care about all this?,” I ask. “Where is the excitement? Where is the story?” Then we set about turning the numbing data into stimulating descriptions of what it all means. More than any words you say, people will remember what they “see” in their minds while they are listening.
If you plan to be a dynamic business or professional speaker, you need to deliver dynamic stories – stories that are interesting, memorable, and illustrate your point in a way that can inspire, persuade, or teach.
When an audience – of one or one thousand – listens to your story they must find it interesting, connect to it emotionally, and learn a lesson from it. Your story must make an obvious point in your speech or conversation.
Here is the sure fire formula that all good stories follow:
- Situation – what was their situation before your product or service?
- Solution – what solution did you offer?
- Success – how did they live happily ever after?
Here is an example of this formula in action from my work as an executive speech coach; I was coaching an engineer who was also the new president of the company:
One of my California clients said, “Patricia, you’ve worked so well with our marketing team, preparing them for their presentations. Now, can you help our new President? He is very smart, but he’s basically an engineer. He’s had little practice and is not a good speaker. He’s always been a great a team player, but now he needs to look like a strong leader when he kicks off our annual sales meeting. Can you write him a speech and coach him to look presidential? Oh-and you have three hours to do it.”
So I met with their President. “Everyone tells me you are very ethical,” I told him. “Tell me about your parents.” He had some wonderful anecdotes. “And I hear you’re interested in sports,” I continued. “What sports?” Again, more good stories.
You see, I don’t write speech for my clients, I ask them questions. Then I polish up their words and put them back in their own mouths, in the right order and with the right structure. We rehearse, and I show them how to deliver their message in the most powerful and effective way.
This new President had very interesting stories about being in the Olympics that he had told over the dinner table for years. When I encouraged him to use these in his presentation, he asked in surprise, “Do people really want to hear them?”
“Yes!” I told him. It showed his listeners who he was and where he was coming from, as well as making a strong point in his presentation.
Two weeks later, the new President gave a rousing speech that inspired the sales force and positioned him as a dynamic leader. His success also encouraged him to find opportunities to speak more frequently.
Robert McKee, screenwriter and author of Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting says, “Stories are the creative conversion of life itself, into a clearer, more powerful and more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.”
Fortunately, you don’t have to be born with the storytelling gene. The ability to tell a compelling story can be learned
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Executive Speech Coach and Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker Patricia Fripp is hired by individuals and companies who realize that powerful, persuasive presentation skills give them a competitive edge.