Storytelling is as old as time, and it’s one of the most compelling ways to get your message across in a memorable way. Good public speakers understand the power of storytelling, and they also know how difficult it can be to effectively weave a story into a presentation. Understanding some of the difficulties you may face when you’re telling a story can help you prevent public speaking disasters. Let’s take a look at some of the common pitfalls.
- Putting yourself in the starring role. No one likes a braggart, and while telling stories that prove your experience and your first-hand knowledge can establish you as an expert, make sure you don’t push your audience away by building yourself up to be larger (and better) than life. If you must tell stories in which you’re the primary focus, make sure you do it in a self-deprecating, humble way, taking time to make it clear there’s more than just your ego on the stage. Your audience – large or small – wants to hear more than “me” and “I.” If you consider part of the goal of storytelling is to create a connection between you and your audience, you’ll be able to avoid this pitfall with ease.
- Making the story your sole focus. Unless you’ve sold tickets, and your audience is simply there to be entertained by you, you’re speaking for a reason. Don’t ever let your story get away from you to a degree that obscures your message. Whether you’re trying to make a sale, convince prospective clients to give you a try, or get your employees fired up for a new project, always keep your primary goal clear in your mind so you can clearly articulate it to your audience. Your story should always function in a supporting role.
- Failing to meaningfully link your story to your message. There’s a reason even the best writers need good editors: Things that are obvious to you – the expert – may not be clear to your audience. Think about stand up comics – they use callbacks and repetition to drive home their primary points. Likewise, you need to make the connection between your stories and your message absolutely, explicitly clear. Don’t ramble on about a story and expect your audience to understand why you told it. You have to connect all the dots and ensure your audience is with you all the way.
- Neglecting your call to action. Whether you’re talking to one person or one thousand, every pitch, every speech, and every presentation must move your audience to do something. Buy my product! Champion my brand! Do your very best! Just like the connection between your story and your message, you must link your stories to the outcome you desire. Business isn’t the place for subtle hints and innuendo. Don’t expect your audience to read your mind. Tell them what you want them to do! Explain the benefits and be direct. Don’t ever waste your time with a great presentation and fail simply because you didn’t ask for the sale.
A great story is one of the most powerful tools a public speaker has, and once you master the skill of artfully embellishing and supporting your presentations with carefully chosen, effectively conveyed stories, you’ll find your audience enchanted and enthusiastic about your ideas.