Basics of Public Speaking
~ A Step by Step Guide to Successful Presentations ~

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Lesson 17 - Story Telling in Public Speaking

Stories have been used as a communication tool for centuries. Why is story telling so popular? One reason is that stories, if told well, can keep our listeners' attention. Another reason is that stories make our message easy to understand and easy to remember. Today's audiences have "information overload" - there are too many advertisements, too many new books, too much news every day for people to remember. Stories help us, as speakers, to cut through all of that "noise" so that we can successfully reach people.

To start with story telling, just give basic information first. If you can quickly communicate who is involved in the story and where they are, you have a good beginning. Then describe the action step by step so that the listener can "follow" the people in the story. Finally, when you reach the end of your story, tie your message to the message of the story.

As you become a better story teller, you can try appealing to people's senses with your story. For example, you can describe physical sensations. If you are telling a story about a man and a woman waiting for a bus in a storm, you can describe how it feels. Are they getting wet from the rain? Is it getting colder? Are they shivering (shaking because of the cold)? Can they feel wind on their skin? Or you can describe emotions. Are they worried that the bus won't come and they will have to stay in the rain all night? Are they angry at the bus for being so late? Are they angry, or happy, or in love with each other? As you describe these sensations, your listeners will, at least in a small way, feel the same things!

As you become an advanced story teller, you can start to use your voice and body language to add to the story. With your voice, you can communicate excitement by speaking at a higher pitch (with a higher tone) or by speaking faster. Speaking faster, including using shorter sentences, can communicate movement. Of course, don't forget to pause for effect at important moments in the story!

One thing you should be careful about is using too many stories in one presentation. Often only one story is enough, if it is a good one! Two or three stories can help reinforce your message, or make your message stronger. If you tell more than three stories, however, it can become confusing for your audience as they try to remember the point of each storie. Keep your stories simple and to the point. When you use stories to communicate, you can be sure your listeners receive your message and remember it long after you are done speaking.

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