Magazine article Business Credit

Put Story Power in Your Presentations

Magazine article Business Credit

Put Story Power in Your Presentations

Article excerpt

"Once upon a time. . ."

We cannot resist that opening. Every speaker should learn to tell stories in a presentation because stories communicate meaning and touch feelings. Some of our favorite memories as children come from stories like "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Many great speakers of the past, from Jesus Christ to Abraham Lincoln, have relied on stories to carry their messages.

In a 30-minute speech, try to include two or three stories. Here are criteria for effectively using stories or illustrations in a presentation.

Pick the right story for you. Use a personal experience that was meaningful or use one from someone else who really made an impression on you. The following story occurred during a family outing. In attending my second 500 mile race, I was seated in the front row, where most of the action was. On lap 194, Michael Andretti and Rick Mears were dueling for the lead when Meats passed on the right to the audible gasps of the crowd. As a result, he was able to win the race - his fourth in 14 years of running the Indianapolis 500. After the race, a reporter asked Meats if he remembered the last time he passed on the right to win a race. He said, "That was the first time. I simply did what I had to do to win the race." This story supports the idea that we should have a passion or goal in life, and I am in a special position to relate to the example.

Be animated in telling the story. Show emotion with your hands, face and voice. Gestures help describe your subject. If you are telling us a "little boy" story, show us how he looks and how tall he is. Reinforce your story highlights with gestures, and move toward the audience when you come to the climax of the story. Let them share in the excitement. Make sure your facial expressions correspond to the feelings you want your audience members to have. If you want them to be surprised, open your eyes wide; if the purpose of your story is to produce anger or outrage, furrow your brow and look furious as you narrate. Remember, if your facial expressions look bored, your audience will feel bored. Facial expressions, like yawns, are contagious.

Be specific in telling the story. Answer the questions Who? What? Where? When? and Why? For example, don't just say, "Theodore Roosevelt was almost killed by an assassin's bullet." Instead, say, "In the Presidential Campaign of 1912, Teddy Roosevelt was about to deliver a campaign speech in Milwaukee. As he was leaving his hotel, a man leaped from the crowd of supporters and shot him point-blank in the chest. …

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