Storytelling is a critical skill in the business world but it tends to be overlooked. No one ever puts on a position description “Must have excellent storytelling ability”, however, if you want to capture the attention of your audience either in a meeting, presentation, or speech, you need to be able to tell a story that is memorable.
The speeches that I find most captivating are ones that start out humble, mentioning the lesson to be learned. The speaker then builds excitement and intrigue into their talk so our curiosity is peaked and we can’t wait to hear what happens next. Lastly they end with defining the lesson(s) learned again but add how we as the audience can learn as well from their experience. Add some humor, positive body language, and a smile and usually it is a successful presentation.
But why is storytelling so important? Most of us attend many meetings and presentations coupled with conference calls so we are on information overload. To really get our message across, one must not only get others to hear what we have to say but instead make a significant impact so they can recall our message “correctly” at a later time.
The key things to keep in mind are the following –
- Be honest but don’t apologize – if you are giving a presentation and describe something you did wrong, talk about what you learned and turn it into a positive experience.
- Use simple words – do not try to impress your audience using long or very technical words. If you do that, it will result in them trying to figure out what that word meant and will not listen to the next few sentences. I suggest to my clients to speak as if the audience were all in their early 20’s.
- Laugh at yourself – it is always good to get the audience to laugh by poking fun at yourself which makes others relate more to you. I heard a woman give a speech and part of it was about her male counterparts. She stated that “They all rolled out of bed and went to an early morning meeting looking great. For me, I need an hour to do hair and makeup to look like this” (and she waved her hand over herself).
- Learn how to pause effectively – if you don’t give your audience a few seconds to take in what you are saying, you may instead overwhelm them. If you review the example above, that female speaker stopped after she said that so we could all understand and better yet, relate to her. Pausing can also be used when you want to introduce a new idea or switch topics.
- Practice your speech and practice your body language – if you will be standing, make sure that your body language doesn’t negate what you are saying. As an example, if you are talking about a funny experience, don’t have your arms crossed and have a scowl on your face.
- Enjoy what you are talking about – by infusing passion into what you are saying, no story no matter how intense or elaborate can be boring. Audiences will be entranced by your words and really connect with you.
If you are still unsure how to tell a good story, watch your friends or colleagues, view a YouTube video, or join Toastmasters. Once you have successfully presented a few times, it does get easier and words will just flow. You will exude a more confident demeanor and audiences/staff/clients will relate very effectively to you.