How to Be a Better Public Speaker by Developing Storytelling Ability

The story behind the statistics. Why and how storytelling matters.

When you improve your storytelling ability your presentations can be powerful and persuasive.

When we think of Hollywood…

what we usually remember most vividly are the moving, dramatic, and funny stories that movies tell. Screenwriter Robert McKee says, “Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.”

Writers, actors, and directors recognize the value of great stories and the importance of making them come alive.

As an executive speech coach, I teach business leaders and sales professionals to use stories to train, lead, and sell. Some people are born raconteurs with natural storytelling ability. When a group gathers around the coffee pot for the mid-morning ritual, everyone is eager to hear the latest personal stories. An audience of one or a thousand will always prefer a trivial story brilliantly told to a brilliant one told badly.

In my role of coaching corporate speakers…

they often bring me sheets of statistics and say, “Here’s what I want to talk about.”
I ask them, “Why should your audience care about this? Where is the excitement? What is the story behind the statistics?” Then we turn the numbing data into stimulating descriptions of what it all means. More than any words you say, people will remember what they “see” in their minds while they listen. Don’t depend on PowerPoint to tell your story. It can’t! Only you can.

In a recent speech training session for engineers…

I asked one attendee to retell what he had been saying, but without the help of his expensive, four-color viewgraphs. The entire audience agreed. He was more effective and passionate about his subject without visual aids. He had tapped into his storytelling ability.

Am I saying you shouldn’t use visual aids?

No, just first decide what you want to say. What are your points of wisdom or key ideas? How can you illustrate these points best? Use your support materials to support your case. One corporate team walked away from my coaching session saying, “This makes so much sense. We’ve been putting together 40 PowerPoint slides, then deciding what to say in between them.”

You must connect with your audience emotionally as well as intellectually.

Look at the people you’re talking to, not at your notes. Keep the words on your slides to a minimum. Your audience wants to hear your message reinforced by your stories, not to read two dozen words on your slides.

Relate your stories to the needs and interests of your audience.

If you’re talking to salespeople, tell stories about how your satisfied clients have used your product or service. Use their comments as an exciting and vivid dialogue in your story. Follow the classic Hollywood formula:

  • Start with interesting characters.
  • Add sparkling dialogue.
  • End with an important lesson learned.

Remember, your prospects may resist a sales presentation.

However, few can resist a good story that is well told. Audiences love movies because of stories. Use stories in your presentations and your audiences will remember your message.  Remember Hollywood and what Robert McKee said, “Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.” Work on your storytelling ability.

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“Your presentations on storytelling and superstar sales presentations and executive speech coaching have had a tremendous impact on our business.”

– Tom Esposito, Director Channel Marketing, Zebra Technologies

Companies hire Patricia Fripp to help them drive more business by perfecting their sales conversations and presentation. She is a Hall of Fame keynote speaker, executive speech coach, and sales presentation skills expert. Her online learning program, Powerful, Persuasive Presentations, is embraced as a “must-have” by speakers and companies worldwide. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance wrote that learning presentation skills from Patricia Fripp is one of the best ways to invest in your career. She is the author of two books and co-author of another three. In 2019 she was named “One of the Top 30 Women in Sales” and “One of the Top 30 Global Gurus.”