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Public Speaking Course: 

Storytelling DO's

In my public speaking course you will practice the best way to tell a story. You can tell stories during your presentations to help illustrate key points. Always make sure your story is relevant to the material you are presenting, so as not to confuse your audience.

Select stories that will match the intelligence, experience, occupation, and age of the audience as well as the reason for the presentation. Do not tell a story that doesn't relate just to tell a story. You don't want to talk over the heads of the audience members and you don't want to bore them with stories that are too simple. You must connect by using the skills from your public speaking course the right way.

Try to space your stories at intervals to give a change of pace and reemphasize your point. Control the listening pattern you want in the audience. You control the audience for their best interests, always caring for them. And when you do, they will care for you. Tell about your recent troubles, stupidity, or ignorance. Eliminate unnecessary detail. Use the fewest number of words possible that convey the message in an interesting fashion. Don't just ramble on and on with no clear end in sight.

Writing the story out will help you see words that you can eliminate without changing the story, this is a valuable technique in the art of public speaking. Remember, Harry Truman said "It takes me two weeks to prepare a good five minute speech." Find the essence.

Keep your funny stories short during your presentations. The size of the laugh is inversely proportional to the number of words used to get to the punch line.

Rule: The longer the story, the funnier it must be. You must make jokes and humorous stories believable up to a point. Use factual, specific details that the audience can relate to, i.e., say the brand name like Lots-o-Suds rather than a laundry detergent.

The more truthful and specific the story sounds the more your audience will get caught up in what you say. And getting the audience involved in what you say, getting "connected" to your message for them is extremely important to what you learned from your public speaking course.

Be specific in the location of a joke or story. If your story takes place in a restaurant say, "I was at Jerry's Sub Shop in Rockville, Maryland, the other day." This gives the audience something concrete to think about, which makes them more involved mentally. Mental involvement is the antidote to mental slumber, which is the bane of existence in the public speaking skills. Remember my book "Wake 'Em Up".

When creating a story, use people, places, and things the audience knows. When the audience is familiar with the elements in your story, they will become even more involved. As soon as you mention the company cafeteria, their minds race to the cafeteria to meet you and find out what happens. However, don't use humor that is too inside. Only a few people will understand it. Your job is to try to connect with every person in the audience.

Another tip is to emphasize the adjectives and verbs in your stories to make them sound more interesting and detailed. For instance look around where you are right now and describe anything you want. Use great detail. Really put punch behind the adjectives and verbs and see how your description comes to life. Use specific and interesting verbs and adjectives. Say I was exhausted, not I was tired. Emphasize one syllable, and pause for effect.

Say, "her head was nodding and drooping, struggling to be held up", not "her head was down".

Think about how a good book you read makes very descriptive sentences in order to place you in the story. You must do the same when telling a story in order to create the absolute best effect.  In a normal speech if you forget the exact thing you wanted to say, you can improvise and go on. But if you leave out an important detail in a story or if you accidentally give away the climax too soon, you have a mess on your hands.

In practicing what I teach in my public speaking course, I tell a story at least 30 times in private before I'll test it out in front of an audience.

Use true facts from your own life. This makes it easier for you to tell the story because you lived it and you can learn it faster too. Also, someone else can't steal your story as easily if all the facts have to do with your life.

Work out different lengths of the same story to fit different time segments.

Use appropriate emotional language to hook the listener. (Refer to this website's "Emotional Language" article for reference.)

Create a funny story so that it concludes abruptly with a climactic word. Don't utter another syllable or sound after this climactic word. You might distinguish the laughter you worked so hard to get.

Exception: Some stories get laughter all along the way, if properly presented after much private practice. More of these stories are used by humorists who practice to be and are expected to be funny all the time.

(Yes, I've snuck a Don't in the Do's section.) Don't memorize your stories word-for-word, don't memorize them just "know" them.

I knew a public speaker who presents primarily to school children. They often ask, "How do you memorize all that?" He replies, "I don't memorize it, I know it by heart." There is an important difference. By not memorizing, you won't feel forced to say every word, every time you tell the story. You can change the length of the story easily by adding or subtracting detail. You can even be interrupted, and pick up where you left off, which is especially important with audiences of curious, rambunctious children.

Good Trick: Have a quotation ready that makes the same point as your story. If your time is shortened, you can cut out a story and replace it with a quote.

Slant your story to the intended audience. When telling a story to a group of executives you would probably want to use different language and emphasis than if you were telling the same story to a group of secretaries. Change nonessential elements of the story to make a better connection.

Use terms like "Imagine this", "Have you ever had an experience where ... ", "Let me take you with me to ...", to draw the audience into your stories, into the word pictures you are painting on the canvass of their minds.

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