Great Speakers Capture Hearts Through Great Storytelling

Executives and managers who work with us on presentations often hear that the key to engaging an audience is to weave a story around the message. Great stories can bring ideas to life, paint a clear picture of a vision and build confidence in new direction for a company.

The challenge in many cases is helping an executive find a story that supports his or her ideas and creates a bond with the audience. Most executives know that stories build energy and keep an audience’s attention. But, some fail to realize that the authenticity and personal connection to the story matters to the audience.

Several months ago, I began working with an executive who was new to his position and new to the writers who were supporting him. Each time he came to work with me, he had a revised script, more visuals for his presentation …. and another story to test on me. He was working on a large project and wanted to gain the support of key audiences within his company.

Every time he practiced, the delivery was flat.

The writers had done their part …. he had stories, details, slides, bar graphs and even handouts for the project. In an attempt to get him more involved in the message, I urged him to let go of the details and think more in terms of the audience’s emotions around the project. Why would they care? What would the company look like when his project was complete?

As we began talking more about his hopes for the project, his message changed. But, the stories and examples just didn’t bring the energy that they should have. So, I began asking him more about each scenario. It didn’t take long to figure out that he was not familiar with the stories …. someone else had done the homework and talked to the managers involved. He knew the stories, but he didn’t own the stories, making his ability to connect the stories to the audience very flat. The lesson for this executive was that you have to be personally involved with the examples and stories that you use to make your points. You’re asking the audience to be moved by your story …… it’s important that you’ve been moved as well.

The value of storytelling was the topic of a Harvard Business Review a few years ago. Peter Guber, a filmmaker, entertainment executive and UCLA professor, offers four truths about storytelling that have always stuck with me.

Great stories should be:

True to the Teller-As noted in the example above, stories must be real to the teller, congruent with their own beliefs and emotions in order to be believable and revealing to the audience.

True to the Listener-Stories must be relevant to the overall message or idea the speaker is asking the listener to buy into. Through the years, I’ve worked with many executives who’ve become good storytellers and now think the only thing they need to do is tell one story after another in a speech. A story can draw a chuckle and keep a group listening, but a good story takes them further into your message.

True to the Situation-Every audience deserves their own story. Stories should be tailored to each situation and told in a way that acknowledges the feelings and emotions of each audience. A well, thought-out story can solidify an audience’s perspective if delivered well.

True to the Mission-The story should be consistent with the speaker’s overall message and objective. Great stories can provide perspective, insight and support for the speaker’s goals and help the audience get on board with the call to action.

While good information will fill the listener’s brain with ideas, good stories allow you to touch the listener’s heart. And, once a listener becomes emotionally involved in your message, your chances of getting results are much greater.

To make sure your stories are getting results, take time to develop your presentation with us in the new year.

We’re here when you need us!