Use personal storytelling to keep audiences engaged – Sacramento Business Journal

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Vistage speaker and speaking consultant Kindra Hall recently blogged about how storytelling not only helps a speaker overcome their natural nervousness, but also makes it more likely the audience will remember the speaker and what was said. Whether speaking to a group of employees, customers or industry peers, the ability to speak in front of groups is a key, and usually unavoidable component of leadership effectiveness.

Who enjoys speaking to groups?

Most of us really don’t like to speak in front of groups because it puts us in a vulnerable spot. Perhaps the feeling gets better with age or the number of speaking engagements we’ve had. But audiences can’t help but judge us and what we have to say, and we know it. In fact, we probably overthink speaking situations in light of our own insecurities.

Whether familiar or unfamiliar, large or small, audiences have a way of giving us some amount of fear. And the gravity of the speaking situation has an amplifying effect, whether its pitching to potential investors, launching our newest product to customers or trying to impart wisdom to our Little League team. Regardless of the situation, organizing one’s thoughts and speech presentation ahead of time provides some measure of confidence leading up to actually "going on stage.” But when it’s time to deliver, it’s the rare person whose heart doesn’t start racing, even Kindra Hall’s.

Start with a personal story

It’s always easier to talk about ourselves and something we’ve done and personally experienced. So, starting with a personal story is almost guaranteed to calm your jitters and get you off and running because no matter how you tell it it’s your story, and you can tell it with confidence. It doesn’t have to be funny or zany — although it’s easy to interject humor into a personal story— it just has to be personal. Ideally your story provides some sort of lead-in or background to the subject of your talk, but the important thing is the story is about you.

Apart from calming you down and getting you started, a personal story makes you human and gets the attention of the audience because they want to hear how your story ends. We all love stories because our mind makes us relate to them. Best of all, you’re more likely to be remembered for your story(ies) than for the subject of your talk — of course the ideal is to be remembered for both.

Relatable stories have the most impact

Few of us are true raconteurs or professional storytellers. If we were we’d be writing screenplays. Starting a talk with a story is not about telling a well-crafted story, it is only about talking about yourself in some way that relates to your topic. Making it personal calms you down and centers your emotions; it gets and keeps your audience’s attention and makes you relatable, and in all likelihood, your talk will have the impact you intend.

Lonnie Martin coaches CEOs and is chairman of two Sacramento-area Vistage CEO peer groups.