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Public Speaking Course:

Storytelling DO's

Stories can be used during your presentations to illustrate a point.  Always make sure the story you tell is relevant to the material you are presenting. You will learn about the many different aspects of telling a good story from my public speaking course. 

Select stories that will match the intelligence, experience, occupation, and age of the audience as well as the nature of what you are speaking about. 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. If you can space stories at intervals throughout your presentation to provide a change of pace and to reemphasize your message. Remember the listening pattern you want to create in the audience. You must connect with the audience and use your skills from your public speaking course effectively. 

Tell stories about your troubles, stupidity, or ignorance. People like you when you use self-effacing humor because they see themselves mirrored in your weaknesses. Make sure to eliminate unnecessary detail. Use the fewest number of words that convey the message in an interesting fashion.

Rule: The longer the story, the funnier it must be. You must make jokes and funny 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 just 'laundry detergent'.

Writing the story out will help you see words that you can eliminate without changing the story, this is a valuable technique from my public speaking course. Harry Truman once said "It takes me two weeks to prepare a good five minute speech." 

Keep your funny stories short during your presentations. An axiom in the public speaking is the size of the laugh is inversely proportional to the number of words used to get to the punch line.

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.

Make sure to specify 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. 

When crafting 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 member of 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. Make sure to 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 best effect. Learn your stories. 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 ending too soon, you have ruined its effect.

In practicing my skills I teach from my public speaking course, I tell a story at least 30-50 times in private before I'll test it out in front of an audience.

Always try to use true facts from your own life. This makes it easier for you to tell the story because you lived it and someone else can't steal your story as easily if all the facts have to do with your life.

Create a funny story so that it concludes abruptly with a climactic word. Don't utter another syllable or sound after this word or 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.

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

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

I know a speaker who speaks primarily to school aged children. They often ask, "How do you memorize all that?" He replies, "I don't memorize it, I know it by heart." There is a distinct 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.

Super 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 with your audience.

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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