When you tell a story, the audience recalls similar events in their own lives and a bond is created.
As a result, stories enable you to form a relationship with your listeners in a matter of seconds.
Storytelling in action
For our first example, watch Audrey Choi’s TED talk on making global capital markets catalysts for social change.
Notice how she begins by telling her mother’s story to provide context.Help me become a better public speaker
Our brains are primed to pay attention to new information, which is one reason why our social media feeds are so addictive.
The start of an unfamiliar story pulls people away from their smartphones and into the present moment. That’s how you grab attention.Help me become a better public speaker
Stories appeal to the core of the brain, bypassing the logical and judgemental layer. We make decisions emotionally, then back them up rationally.
A story gives you direct access to that emotional decision-making centre.
In business, speakers and presenters too often try to connect with people only on a rational level.
While your audience may understand exactly what you want them to and why, they will only act on your message if they feel emotionally engaged.Help me become a better public speaker
Criticising an audience or instructing them what they should do, say or think will probably result in folded arms and mutters of discontent.
But when you tell a story you demonstrate the consequences of an action, then your audience can learn without becoming defensive.
Storytelling in action
Margaret Heffernan is the former CEO of five companies.
Watch how she starts her talk on the perils of organisational hierarchies with a story about chickens.Help me become a better public speaker
A story gives you an opportunity to communicate with more than words.
Your body, gestures and facial expressions contribute to the conveying of emotion, so that your audience can empathise with the protagonist of your story.
You can entrance your audience in a state of tension until questions prompted by your story are answered.
What happened next? How did it end?
Bookend your speech or presentation with the start and end of a story to keep people’s interest throughout.Help me become a better public speaker
Lastly, sensory details engage our brains in a different way to plain data.
They are cemented into memory for longer.
Include details that add to the atmosphere of your story, such as any colours, smells or sights that will help your audience visualise the scenes you describe.
As our final example, watch how Simon Sinek sets the scene with a story in his talk on why great leaders make employees feel secure.
First, download our free ebook to start your journey towards.
You’ll learn our 5-step process for transforming your Presentations: inspirational, memorable and persuasive.
It’s full of practical tips and insights
Download your free copy of our Five Steps to Improve your Leadership Talks ebook now.
Help me become a better public speaker
Benjamin Ball Associates helps clients to communicate better.
Over the years the BBA team has coached thousands of senior executives globally to present themselves in English. We have developed a robust toolbox of techniques that we use to help our clients become clear, confident communicators.
We’ll help you create a powerful first impression that hooks and engages your audience immediately and we’ll coach you to deliver clearly, confidently and with impact.
Speak to Louise on +44 20 7018 0922 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more and discuss your upcoming speech or presentation.
Contact us to improve your public speaking skills
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