Monday, September 21, 2009

What Moves an Audience?

You're passionate about the topic. You know what you want your audience to do. You've developed the perfect catchphrase. You have statistics and famous quotes to back you up. You even have an amazing PowerPoint presentation glowing in the background. You're gung ho and ready to go, but by time you're done, your audience is left unmoved, unchanged, and unimpressed. You brought a knife to a gunfight. No matter how bright, shiny or sharp, you forgot the heavy artillery: Storytelling.

Storytelling gets your audience involved and invested - both with you, and your topic. It's easy to convince yourself that stories are fluff, that your audience just wants the bottom line. It's even easier (and often, but not always, accurate) to think that no one wants to hear the same, recycled stories commonly associated with your topic. Certainly nothing in your own life is worth talking about. Why would they care about YOU?

Because you're the one talking, that's why. Because they want to be convinced in a whole new way. They to see the problem, and the solution, first through YOUR eyes so they can see it through THEIR eyes.

Five Cool Ways to Get Great Stories!

1. Blogs

How many blogs do you read every week? Every day, new stories are written and put out to the world, on everything from basketweaving to copywriting to potty training. I use Google Reader to organize my blogs, and check it daily. I have about 40 I subscribe to, and regularly trade out for different perspectives. Check out the blogroll to the right to see other speaking blogs and blogs of interest - I'll be adding more as the weeks go by.

2. Books

Remember them? Read them on a Kindle if your must, but find books on your subject and find out what stories are used there. If its a real story, the facts are free game, but credit your sources anyway. At least you'll look well-read.

3. Twitter

Start an account, and start following folks (like me) that are either in your target audience, or part of your field of expertise. See what's happening to them, and ask questions. You may find Tweet Rewards.

4. Facebook

A quick request for a story on Facebook can be very valuable if you have a wide enough network of friends and associates. Not on Facebook yet? Get an account and add me as your friend - I'll give you stories!

5. Get Personal

This can be the scariest approach, but it's also the best. Get over your fear of talking about your own experiences, and let the audience see through the windows of your life. Your stories build trust with your audience, and provide authenticity to your message. How does your topic touch on your own life? When did you learn the lesson you're talking about? When we see you as you really are, it is easier for us to feel as you feel. By bringing them into your world, you put yourself into theirs.

Start a Story File - either on notecards, on your computer, a file cabinet, cave drawings - whatever works for you. You can categorize and cross-reference as your personal preferences require. I like to send myself emails (to an online account, in case my Hard Drive blows up) and label them for easy rediscovery.

When the audience leaves, you certainly hope they remember the great tag line you came up with, whether its 'Eat That Frog', 'Shut Up, Stop Whining, and Get a Life', or 'New Foot Smell' - but if all they remember are your stories, they will still remember your point, they will remember YOU, and they will be moved.

Tell your stories, and you will do more than Speak - you'll Speak and Deliver!

1 comment:

  1. Rich,

    This is an excellent article. The importance of telling stories cannot be emphasized enough, especially to young speakers just starting out.

    Studies show that stories are what make speeches memorable. The "Story File" idea is terrific. I carry around a small notepad as well because sometimes we see things when we are out and about that can offer great material for future speeches.

    I did a piece on telling stories a couple of months ago, using a wonderful speech given by Steve Jobs to show just how effective they can be. You and your readers can see it here: I hope you find it useful.


    John Zimmer



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