Have you ever noticed how politicians use personal stories about their struggles or those of others to illustrate a point or – in most situations – evoke sympathy? The reason is simple, politicians realize the impact that storytelling can have on their comments.
Storytelling is also important for public speakers, but it has to be effective. Done correctly storytelling can reel audience members in, but speakers who haven’t mastered its art may come across as boring and even insincere.
Stories shared by a speaker not only have to have relevance to his comments, their importance also has to be apparent. In other words, a story shared during comments shouldn’t be something the audience has to think about – even if for a few seconds.
Second, it’s important to avoid the temptation to share a story that sounds too sappy to be true. A speaker should tone it down if, in fact, the information shared is correct. And a speaker should never create a story only to illustrate a point or share someone else’s story as if it were his own (a major risk because audience members may have already heard the story about a different individual). Both cases can create an appearance that a speaker is a phony and discredit any other comments that he shares.
Storytelling involves slowly relating details of a situation that an individual has faced, how he overcame obstacles, and how the results bettered him. Storytelling often involves sharing events that don’t have a happy ending and these especially can have an impact on audiences. But again, there has to be relevance as opposed to a speaker merely sharing a sad story about someone.
What does storytelling accomplish?
– It can help an audience’s understanding of a situation or plight of an individual/group of people.
– Prompt sympathy for someone who is struggling.
– Convey the importance of a crisis as it relates to genocide, an epidemic, victims of crime, etc.
– Highlight how different programs have succeeded in helping individuals.
What are the things to avoid in storytelling? Among them is gossip, unfounded allegations or information that may embarrass someone. Remember, storytelling as part of a speaker’s remarks is meant to help, not hurt, others.
Storytelling is probably one of the easier parts of public speaking. That’s because a speaker isn’t trying to educate someone, only share a human interest story. Thus, a great knowledge isn’t necessary but only an ability to speak as if he were relating the story to someone in a more casual setting.
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