Story telling has been used to pass on knowledge for thousands of years. We can tell a lot about our society or a business by the types of stories created every day.

In my last blog I covered the mechanics of a great speech, but what are you actually going to say? And how are you going make it relevant to your audience?

Facts and figures help us make logical judgments, but people tend to remember an engaging story. Perhaps it’s because story telling is a well-tested education tool. Confucius says, “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I experience and I understand”. Providing an experience, by evoking emotions through storytelling, is key to a motivational speech.

The rules for engagement:

Life is full of stories

It’s as easy as keeping an ear open! Whenever we share an event with a friend or colleague, it’s a narrative. But why is it when we’re asked to share a story formally, we can’t think of an example?

In business, listen out for illustrative examples of great teamwork, customer service and positive attitudes. In life, think about the experiences you’ve had, that changed the way you think and act.

Know your audience

The more you know about your audience the better. Or put another way, you might have a great story from your best mate’s stag party, but it’ll hardly reinforce what’s required for better customer service. Learn about your client; meet as many people in the organisation, or at the function as possible. This way your speech becomes a ‘conversation’.

Make it personal

Because a story involves people, and not just a page of textbook theory, don’t feel anxious about people judging you. Exposing fears, thoughts and feelings in your story shows how emotionally charged some situations can be. Providing a ‘human’ element also demonstrates how, in most situations, it’s our emotions that drive our decisions, not rationality and logic.

Structured your story

It’s important the audience can easily follow your story. You understand its relevance because you know the context, people involved, and their reactions. You’re audience has no details, other than those you provide. Choose which points are relevant to the punch line, and which aren’t.

Three simple steps in the process of telling a story:

What happened?

Who was involved, what did they do, and what did they say? To make the story more engaging, it often helps to say a little bit about the characters. It’s often the uniqueness of their personalities that make the story so interesting, funny and relevant.

What was the result?

What was the reaction afterwards? What changed? How did this story turn into a boost in sales, help your team understand their role in the value chain, encourage others to support your charity?

What can be learned from it?

This is the most critical part of the story, but without Steps 1 and 2, you’d simply be making a statement and people could choose to either believe you or not. You might like to start this part of the story with something like “So what does a story like that tell us about …?”

Your story insights should be the time when the audience has their ‘ah-ha moment’. This is your speech’s key objective, so it’s worth preparing how you put the sentence together.

Think of your own stories, because you will have many. Have you achieved a goal despite facing adversity, or the challenge of unexpected changes? Perhaps you have done something differently after hearing someone elses story? I encourage you to test the story telling waters and share your story below.

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