A good story can ignite an audience’s interest. The art of telling a story is one of the most appreciated in the public speaking world. Telling stories is an ancient form of connection.
The oldest tales (and most famous ones) are the so-called fairy tales. We all listened to them when we were children. They are well-known, and there are good reasons for that. As a speaker, you can learn lessons from them that will help you catch your audience’s attention.
“Once upon a time…” and you immediately pay attention. The first sentence of a fairy tale generally introduces the main characters, the ones in the conflict. So what does it tell us?
You need to start strong and direct. Your audience needs something to catch their attention and wants to know what is coming. Sure, surprises in the story are good, but they need to know what you’re talking about from the beginning.
Here’s an example of a strong beginning seasoned with some humor, while hitting all the points here:
Characters don’t need to be exhaustively described.
The Prince is charming, the Witch is evil, and so on. Your audience doesn’t care about the physical description of the actors unless it’s necessary for the story.
You can also give a single description that is unnecessary for the story itself if it is funny or surprising. It will help keep their attention.
Characters in fairy tales have clear motivations, and so should you when telling a story. Ensure your audience understands why you share that and how it relates to your topic.
Telling a funny story to break the ice is fine, but your audience will expect it to lead to something related to the presentation topic or goal.
Every fairy tale has a lesson for the listener. Now, I’m not telling you to be moralist or put life lessons in all your speeches but think of this as a goal. What do you want to teach your audience? What do you want them to know at the end of your story?
A story should give your audience some direction. It can be “what not to do” in a situation. It is, in fact, quite effective, especially if you season your story with a bit of humor.
Matthew McConaughey’s speech by winning Best Actor at the 2014 Oscars is a good example emphasizing morality.
Whether it is “three guys entered a bar” or “the princess lived in a magic castle”, the setting is always important. It helps the audience visualize the story and be involved in its atmosphere.
So, when telling your story, make sure you say where it’s taking place. You don’t need to give many details, only to situate your audience. Otherwise, they’ll feel some void, and the story will not have the same impact.
Fairy tales: the oldest stories
Human beings have told stories since we can remember, and fairy tales are kept “trendy” for a reason. They can serve as a guide of what’s a good story that catches the audience can be. Make sure you have the 5 points above in your story, and you are on the right path to win them.