Hello and welcome,
Everybody knows that great speakers tell great stories, but HOW do you tell incredible stories?
Here is the secret: talk to the senses.
Pro tip: USE ALL THE SENSES.
You wouldn't believe how many speakers preach the importance of telling stories and then they tell a story that goes like this... "So the other day I'm at the grocery store when a woman approaches me and she's mad, but I minded my own business. When I finished shopping I saw her outside running a key down the side of my car, can you believe it?"
In the story about the angry woman we imagine a person at the grocery store running into a person who is mad. We've used two senses: seeing and feeling. As the story continues we imagine seeing someone keying our car; more seeing (some would argue you hear the keying, but it's not strong enough to sell the idea).
Fun fact: listen to people talk and you'll notice that many people speak from one, maybe two, dominate senses. Some people always talk about what they saw or felt. I once had a roommate and everything he said was a quote from a movie. He was always listening. When I work the Vancouver wine festival I know a sommelier who always talks about how wines smell and taste. When the sommelier talks about wine regions he always mentions how fresh the air smells, or what food to eat. Everything he talks about relates to smell and taste.
If you want to connect with more people then you have to open up your senses. Here are three ways to ensure you cover all the bases.
1. Always include dialogue in your stories
2. Be transparent
In the story about the angry lady, dialogue is a selling feature. YES, she is mad, but what did she say?
Good, make something up around the theme of what she was mad about.
This ties into my third point, exaggerate what she said. If I were telling the story I would say... so the other day I'm at the grocery store when a woman approached me and said, "Can you believe they don't sell SOAP in this stupid store?"
You might be thinking that's a odd thing to say. Usually, angry people say odd things.
The story already has the listener more involved. Now, continue... I minded my own business. I grabbed some juicy steaks and potatoes. I was in a good mood whistling my way out to the parking lot when I saw Mrs. Angry screeeeching her key down the side of my car like fingers on a chalkboard, can you believe it?"
Dialogue breaks up a story and makes it interactive. If you only take away one lesson to tell better stories then it should be to ALWAYS USE DIALOGUE.
This is a killer for many communicators in general. Humans brush over the facts, or get stuck in one feeling like anger or blame. You must know a friend who once had a problem and they blamed it all on one situation or person. You know your friend's mad, and your friend might think they're being transparent because they are telling you how they feel.
But are they being truthful with how they feel?
Being transparent means that you look at the whole picture. Truly transparent speakers never get stuck in a problem because they are always able to look at the whole picture, and discover the solution. A transparent speaker LISTENS to what they say, and if they hear blaming and anger, they'll think, what is it that I'm actually feeling? Then, they communicate that process with the audience.
Transparent speakers are what some people call an open book. Most people will never be an open book for whatever reason. I do know one thing, people who avoid being an open book are never great storytellers.
On the other hand, LIARS who make you think they're an open book are; you guessed it, great storytellers.
Listeners have to be intuitive because con artists are great storytellers.
In sales they call it STORY SELLING.
I have a storytelling lesson I do with all students of public speaking. I bring up different story topics like happy, sad, dialogue, and one of the topics is exaggeration. I don't think I've heard one exaggerated story that wasn't entertaining. One speaker met Kobe Bryant and he was as tall as a mountain. Another speaker ran so fast the soles of her shoes melted. My clients baby screamed so loud he blew her eardrums!
Using metaphors and similes is an easy way to exaggerate a story and entertain an audience. The bottom line is that if you exaggerate your stories, be transparent, and include dialogue then you will naturally talk to the senses.
I cannot stress how important it is to talk to ALL the senses.
Pro tip: a great speaker starts a speech off using sight, and they'll walk into a feeling, and then sound. If you do this then you are almost guaranteed to get everybody's attention, except perhaps the sommelier.
Here is your homework, listen to HOW people talk. Challenge yourself to listen to what sense they speak from, and then speak to them using the same sense. If they see something then you see something, if they feel then you feel, and if they hear then you hear, smell, taste. If you do this exercise during 10 conversations then I guarantee you that this storytelling method will change the way you speak!
Include sound effects, dialogue, self-talk, feelings, emotions, visualizations that force the listener to use all their senses!
Now, for this wonderful infographic that features me!
The rule is that you leave the audience with a lesson, moral of the story, anchor phrase, or homework. The exception is when you leave the audience hanging; for example, I had a speaker tell a story about a thief, and and the end of the story the thief just walked off into the night.
At first I was like, "What the heck, that's not a life lesson. Where did the thief go?"
Later, I was still thinking about the ending. Remarkably, I forgot the other speakers lessons and morals of the story, but I remembered wanting to hear more about that thief who walked on into the night. The main goal of any speech is to have the audience learn, laugh, and be inspired so yes, the rule is to inspire them. The exception is to leave them hanging and begging for more. The rule is easy to add to your speech, the exception is... hard.
My challenge to you is to put more energy into speaking and storytelling. When I first got into sales my mentor told me to model everybody I met. My mentor said, "Stand how they stand, smile how they smile, and laugh when they laugh."
I started doing this but soon realized so many people talk with very little energy. They don't move their arms, they forget to make facial gestures, and they have maybe three notes they hit with their voice. It was so bad I found myself hunching over, leaning forward, and doing everything my mom told me not to do as a kid. I said, "Screw it, if people don't like me that's okay!"
The difference between a good speaker and a great speaker is how they tell a story.
Are you interested in learning more about the mechanics of public speaking superstars?