September 1st, 2010

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Every great speaker is a great storyteller.  Why? Because the audience can retain information BETTER when people can emotionally and viscerally connect to what’s being said. If you think back to childhood, stories were – for many of us – an introduction to life ‘s lessons, to human behavior, morals, ethics and right versus wrong. And we remember still the value of those stories and what they taught us, not to mention the vivid imagery they conjure up.

    The use of storytelling in business is growing and for good reason. As the necessity of communicating the value and benefit of what you do to the world increases, the skill with which you articulate that requires some imagination and uniqueness in order to capture the audience’s attention… and keep it. By activating the imagination of the audience through stories, you, as the speaker, engage the audience to participate in an experience that is both captivating and informative. It’s a perfect way to connect to the content of your message. The emotional thread of a story is a direct line to the brain for memory retention and the processing of information. In a sense, you are providing an effortless way to learn using a technique that has been instilled in us since childhood.

    Here are some great ways to weave a story into your speech or interview:

    • Be brief. A story should have a strong beginning, a colorful, clear middle and a great ending. And if the story is within a speech, make it 6-8 sentences. You dissipate the impact of a story if it rambles on too long or is too repetitive. Choose your words wisely and make them count!
    • Paint a picture of a great central character and take us to a different time and place. Set it up well and describe it with a few, choice descriptors. Add a bit of dialogue in the character’s vernacular. It will make the character come to life.
    • Know WHY you are telling this story. What is the point of your story and how, very specifically, does it tie into your talking points. Make sure you have the connector! And weave it in seamlessly.
    • Use some dynamic and inflection in your voice when you tell a story. Incorporate some pacing – don’t rush. Be a little theatrical (little being the operative word) and let us relish the tale.

    And remember your story is NOT your bio. Put that in a document. Your story, any story you choose to use in your business communication should be told with humanity and wisdom, a bit of flair and with a take-away for your audience.

    Wendy Scharfman is a professional speaker, communication coach and trainer. She is the founder of Coaching for Effective Communication, a business she created to help her clients become dynamic, confident speakers who can inspire action by delivering a message that matters. Wendy specializes in Leadership Training and Team Building, Public Speaking Competencies, Message Refinement and Media Training.

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