7 Steps to Effective Storytelling
Relevant and engaging stories can be a compelling part of your presentation – whether you are presenting at a board meeting, an industry conference or an awards banquet.
Here are 7 steps to follow to make your storytelling successful:
Pick a relevant story. Think about the story from the audience's point of view and make sure it relates to your message and the point of your presentation. An irrelevant story, no matter how funny or unusual, will only distract from your message.
Adapt the story to fit the audience. Customize the telling of the story to your audience and the situation by adjusting the language you use, the details you include and the time you take to tell it. Your goal is to ensure that it will pass the audience's WIIFM test, "what's in it for me?"
Make the point clear. The purpose of the story should be explicit and relevant to the message of your presentation. Even if you think the connection to your point is obvious, restate it just to be sure that the audience understands it.
Keep it short. One of the most memorable and effective stories that I've heard in a presentation was at a networking meeting when a man introduced himself by saying: "I'm a carpenter and because of my work, a disabled veteran who uses a wheelchair is no longer a prisoner in his home because we built him a ramp."
Practice telling the story. Once you've decided which elements and details you will include to make it relevant and memorable for the audience, practice your delivery and body language so you can make the story as focused and powerful as possible without taking too much time. Practice doesn't mean you have to memorize the story; instead, your goal is to get comfortable enough with the story that you can communicate it effectively and have it convey your point – without having to use the exact same words.
Be prepared for any reaction. Consider the best and worst reactions that your story could get from the audience and be ready to handle both. One of my clients once told a story during a speech and the audience laughed unexpectedly at one part; she wasn't prepared for that and so, "stepped on" the laughter by continuing right on with the rest of the story.
Cue the audience that a story is coming. Use your voice, body language and words to prepare the audience for your story. Think of the classic "once upon a time" introduction often used with children's stories. For adults, you might pause, make your voice softer to capture their attention and lean forward into the audience as you begin your story.
Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps people from all walks of life improve their communication and presentation skills.
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