A couple of weeks ago I recorded a storytelling Teleseminar with Michael Hauge, a highly-successful Hollywood Script Consultant and Story Expert. I expected to learn a few good tips but ended up being blown away by his content. My stories (and your stories when you heed his advice) will never be the same again. They’ll be much improved and make even more of an impact.
3 Quick Keys
Below are 3 very quick storytelling excerpts from the Teleseminar. I strongly suggest that you participate in this post. How? Listen to each audio and then answer the questions I have underneath. You can answer them just for yourself or post your answers in the comments section. Either way, your stories will thank you.
Oh, and this is just the very tip of the iceberg of the teleseminar (which includes more than 25 solid and sometimes rarely used storytelling tips) that will be available in early August.
This first audio is simply what Michael describes as THE primary objective of storytelling
Questions – what story elements do you believe help you meet the primary objective of storytelling that Michael mentioned? Which element(s) do you feel you do well? What do you think you could do better to achieve this primary objective?
This next clip provides a fantastic piece of advice for describing your characters and making them real for your audience.
Question – What’s one example of a character in one of your stories that you can describe using Michael’s advice?
This final clip includes one key (one of dozens) that will help your story achieve the primary objective of storytelling mentioned in the first audio clip of this post.
Question – When does the EXACT moment of conflict happen in your story?
I look forward to hearing from you!
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Five years ago I sent out 25 phrases to guide you to greatness in speaking. Today, you get 40.
I strongly suggest that you keep these phrases where you can see them, because internalizing them can dramatically and automatically drive you to greatness in speaking. If you’re very serious about speaking, discuss the list with other speakers. This reflection exercise can lead to lots of breakthroughs in your speaking.
Note: Most of the phrases are mine but I’ve included a few guests phrase-makers as well.
- “Let your long road lead to their shortcut.”
- “You can’t rush and resonate.”
- “Don’t add humor; uncover it.”
- “Speak to one but look to all.”
- “Tease them before you tell them.”
- “Stories must be true but they don’t have to be factual.” Michael Hauge
- “Speak like you talk, not like you write.”
- “Put the process, not the person, on a pedestal.”
- “When you lift yourself up, you let your audience down.”
- “Condense to connect.”
- “Come across as similar, not special.”
- “The phrase determines what stays.”
- “When you squeeze your information in, you squeeze your audience out.” Old speaker proverb
- “No phrase, no stage”
- “What’s loose is lost”
- “If you take us through the problem, then take us through the payoff.”
- “Conflict is the hook and dialogue is the heart”
- “Let your story become their story”
- “What you pick up in the Cure (the Cure scene), you hand them out the door”
- “Don’t tell; ask”
- “Sell the belief before the relief.”
- “The more specific and visible the goal, the stronger the story.” Michael Hauge
- “Don’t be the Guru of your own story.”
- “Don’t create a message without first creating a mess.”
- “What gets recorded gets rewarded.”
- “Too many speakers try to get across too much information in too little time.”
- “Never sell a product, always sell the result.”
- “Put the result before the resource (or request).”
- “Never close your speech with the Q & A.”
- “Show it before you say it.”
- “People buy into what they help create.”
- “Give a hint and let your audience fill in the rest.”
- “It’s the look before and after the line that makes the line.”
- “Don’t just establish conflict, escalate it.”
- “Reactions tell the story.” Darren LaCroix
- “The bigger the obstacles, the more emotional your story.” Michael Hauge
- “Don’t tell us, take us.” Mark Brown
- “Don’t speak for standing ovations, speak for standing invitations.”
- “Check the VAKS.”
- “People remember best what they hear first and last.”
Bonus phrase (from my son Ace): “When the chips are down…eat them!”
I’d love to hear from you to see what are some of the phrases that guide you in speaking? Feel free to share some of your own phrases too!
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Average speakers get a good response, but exceptional speakers get their audiences to take action. Exceptional speakers help change lives long after they have finished speaking and that’s why they get rehired time and time again.
How do speakers become exceptional? They learn the tools that prompt their audience members to go beyond listening and to take action. Here is one of my favorite tools to help you do just that.
Persuasive Tool: “Most People”
Listen to the following 1-minute audio (from very early on in my speaking career) where you’ll hear two of the most persuasive words in speaking.
The two most important words you heard were “Most people.” You can use the term “most people” to get your audience to take action because of the following truth:
Most people do not want to be most people”
The words “most people” are extremely influential because, if used correctly, they immediately create a comparison between something the audience does not want to be (or have) to something they do want to be (or have). For example, once they get the message about “most people living on get set,” they immediately want to avoid being placed in that category. Then the key is to give them a way to avoid it.
Compare and Contrast
One of the greatest ways to get people to take action is to use the compare and contrast method in many different ways. For example, for years Zig Ziglar compared being a “wandering generality” to being a “meaningful specific.” Once we realize that most people are wandering generalities, we immediately desire to become a meaningful specific.
This worked so well for Zig Ziglar because it simultaneously moved us away from what we did not want to be (a wandering generality) and moved us towards what we did want to be (a meaningful specific). This method pushes and pulls you at the same time.
Look back at the first sentence of this post. What does it compare? It compares average speakers to exceptional speakers and then gives you a way to be exceptional.
Be a Bridge-builder
In speaking, you want to create a bridge between what the audience doesn’t want (to be average) and what they do want (to be exceptional) and then let them know the way to cross that bridge (i.e. 3 keys, 4 steps, 5 Cs, etc.). This is a wonderful way to set up your message because you’re heeding the following valuable speaker advice:
Tease them before you tell them”
Questions for you for your next speech
Here are a couple of questions you can ask yourself as you prepare to give your next speech. These can help you use the “most people” line to get them to take action.
What do MOST PEOPLE do that your audience should avoid doing?
What aren’t MOST PEOPLE doing that your audience should do?
You can also ask the same about how most people think or how most people are, etc.
NOTE: If you don’t feel comfortable saying, “Most people (because you haven’t conducted a scientific survey with slopes and standard deviations and percentages of failure, etc.),” you can say “Many people.” However, that will lose some of its power. Why? It’s because that sounds like something most people would say.
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How would you like a tool to create a deeper connection with your audience than you’ve felt before? Take 6 minutes to listen to the following audio from one of my live workshops.
When you integrate this tool, no matter how many people are in your audience, each one of them will likely feel that you are speaking directly to him or her. Now THAT’S a connection!
The Hallway Test
Remember, if you can say it to one person in a hallway, you can take it up onstage. Just to spell it out for you (since you couldn’t SEE what we did with the activity), the key is to use your language so it sounds and feels like you are speaking to one person while you’re looking at everyone. So when Carlton asks, “Have you ever been to Baltimore,” he will be looking at the entire audience even though it will sound like he’s speaking to one person.
Note: This same concept applies to the stage and the page. For example, on this post, I wouldn’t write, “I want you all to go out and use this tool.” Instead, I’d say, “I want you to go out and use this tool.”
Feel free to reply to this post with how it feels to speak to one and look to all. I look forward to hearing from you. Oh, and don’t forget the “Look to all” part.
Featured Program of the Week
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This post has a strange title because, I’m sure your objective is not to ruin your speech. However, if you understand some of the ways we ruin our speeches, you can avoid making these mistakes and take your speeches to greater heights.
Here are 20 ways speakers ruin their speeches. Some of the points have explanations while some don’t. I strongly suggest that you find a speaker buddy and discuss at least a few of these mistakes.
Note: I’ve made absolutely all of these mistakes at times during my career. That’s how I know how damaging they can be.
Mistake #1: Rushing – most speakers know that rushing is bad for business. After all, “You can’t rush and resonate.” However, it’s important to understand WHY speakers rush. Most of the time it’s because the speaker is trying to say too much in too little time. The old speaker proverb says, “When you squeeze your information in, you squeeze your audience out.” There’s no time for connection when you’re rushing through your material. Remember, less is often more.
Mistake #2: They take too long to get to their stories
Mistake #3: They took too long to get to the conflict in the story
Mistake #4: They establish the conflict but don’t elevate it
Mistake #5: They don’t tease them (the audience) before they tell them
Mistake #6: There’s no emotional change in the story’s main character
Mistake #7: They add humor rather than uncovering it. There are numerous ways to uncover humor without having to go on a detour to do so. In fact, I developed an entire course called Humor Speaking Secrets that covers 33 ways to uncover humor and keep your audience laughing all the way through your speech.
Mistake #8: They don’t have a “Foundational Phrase” that’s fewer than 10 words and easy to remember and repeat
Mistake #9: They don’t use a mix of anchors (anecdotes, analogies, activities, acronyms, audio-visuals, etc.) to keep the energy high and help their audience members remember their points
Mistake #10: They speak to everybody instead of speaking to one and looking to all. For example, they say, “How many of you have been here before…” instead of saying, “Raise your hand if you’ve been here before” or “Have you ever been here before.” You should sound like you’re speaking to one person (grammatically) rather than speaking to 200. I wouldn’t walk up to one person and say, “How many of you have been to Baltimore?” Therefore, I shouldn’t say that onstage. If I can say it to one person, I can say it that same way onstage.
Mistake #11: They don’t give looks before, during, and after delivering their lines. Remember, like my friend Darren LaCroix says, “Reactions tell the story.”
Mistake #12: They don’t sell the results of heeding their message. For example, let’s say you speak on the topic of marketing. Instead of selling them on creating a marketing plan, sell them on the opportunity to get new customers and THEN introduce the concept of the marketing plan. After all, their goal is not a marketing plan, it’s new customers.
Mistake #13: They don’t become the characters in their stories. I see many speakers who have characters that all look and sound alike. While being subtle, it’s important to use posture, positioning, facial expressions, and a slight change in your voice to differentiate one character from another.
Mistake #14: They’re not conversational. Remember, while in your story, you can be as wild and crazy as the story takes you. However, when you’re speaking directly to your audience, it should be conversational.
Mistake #15: They’re too theatrical. Remember, speaking is NOT a stage-play. It’s a dialogue with your audience. Speakers that get onstage and act like they’re in a Shakespearean play will usually not connect with their audience.
Mistake #16: They speak like they write. You don’t want to sound like you’re giving a spoken article. Instead, it’s important to speak like you talk, not like you write. For example, if you don’t usually use a word like “ponder” in your everyday conversations, why should you use it onstage? It’s not the authentic you. If you do use ponder on a regular basis, use it onstage too. The best speakers are themselves onstage.
Mistake #17: They give what I call “Slope speeches.” These are speeches that start off really well (on a very high level) and then go downhill. This is usually a result of one ineffective rehearsal problem that many speakers have. They always rehearse from the beginning of their speech.
Let’s say you have a 30-minute speech that is split up into 3 major points. What many speakers do is practice from the beginning (point #1) and then go through the rest. But what happens when they’re inevitably interrupted by life? They usually go back and start over again with point #1. So point #1 gets lots of attention while points 2 and 3 starve. I suggest that you practice one point (one module) at a time and don’t always do it in order. Then, when you actually get onstage, you can bring it all together for your audience and it will also still be fresh for you.
Mistake #18: They don’t provide their audience with a Roadmap. It’s important to let your audience know where they’re going on this journey. For example, I say, “These 4 R will lead you to get remarkable results in your business and in your life.” Now my audience knows we’re going from one R to the next R to the next R and so on. This makes is easy for them to follow along.
Be creative with your Roadmap (i.e. 4 Steps, 3 keys, 5 tools, etc.). You might also spell it out for them like I do when I say, “First you’ll pick up tools to CREATE your message, then tools for DELIVERING it, and finally, you’ll get tools to SELL your message so your audience takes the exact next step you want them to take.” This helps my audience can follow along with CRAFT, DELIVER, and SELL.
Mistake #19: They don’t give a Big Promise. Your audience needs to know WHY they are there. They should be excited about being there. For example, I say. “By the time you leave here today, you’ll have the tools to keep your audience on the edge of their seats and make them glad they came.”
Mistake #20: They don’t record their speeches. Each speech you give can get exponentially better if you record and listen to the ones you’ve already given. It’s not about looking for what you did wrong. It’s about seeing what you did right so you can do it more often. It’s about seeing there you can uncover more humor. It’s about taking out what might be considered boring. It’s about testing and tweaking so you can touch more lives.
Obviously this is not an exhaustive list, but it’s something you can reference to make sure you stay away from these mistakes.
I wish you the absolute best in your upcoming speeches and I wish the same for your audiences.
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Making the Unknown Known
Would you like a surefire way to clarify your message, shorten it, and make it stick? One of the best ways to do this is to relate the unknown to the known. In textbook language this is referred to as activating prior knowledge. Analogies help tremendously in this area.
Webster’s New World Dictionary’s definition of analogy is “similarity in some ways.”
Let me give you an example of an analogy I used that was extremely effective when I used to deliver this particular message 15 years ago.
Remember: Analogies help people relate what they might not know to what they do know.
A Powerful Analogy
In one of my stories, I start off by saying, “Nobody has ever died from a snakebite.” After the audience tries to figure out what the Dickens I am talking about, I say, “It is the venom circulating throughout your body afterwards that kills you.” With the audience still a bit confused, I go into a story of how one of my ex-girlfriends wronged me, and I compare this to “being bitten.” To carry the analogy further I compare the “anger and hatred” I felt towards her to the venom circulating inside of me.
Finally I state that the only way to get rid of that anger, hatred, and venom is forgiveness. Why? “Because just as a snake will bite you and crawl back in its hole, so will a friend hurt you and go right on with his or her life leaving you to be hurt over and over again.” I then go into selling the benefits of forgiveness.
Why is an analogy important?
Analogies are so important because of the following scenario that occurs occasionally with me. Someone approaches me and says, “Craig, I saw you speak 15 years ago and you talked about the snakebite. Something happened to me and I remembered what you said about nobody ever dying from a snakebite. Man, I realized I had to forgive the person and it really helped me get through that situation.”
Analogies help your audience for days, months, and years after your speech is finished
Whether it is one year ago or 15 years ago, people remember your message more clearly if you provide an analogy. Whether you have ever seen a live snake or not, everybody knows what a snakebite is. But not everybody knows that anger and hatred can work the same as venom and be just as destructive.
I used to tell my audiences, “If you are holding a grudge, that grudge is also holding you.” Next time someone in my audience is bitten, hopefully that person will vividly recall how to get the venom out (forgiveness) and return to a grudge-free life.
I’ve heard speakers (including myself) relate the following:
- Crabs in a barrel to negative people
- Being hungry for food to being hungry for their dreams.
- A malignant growth to slavery.
- Not setting goals to drifting aimlessly on a raft.
- Refusing to change to being stuck in the mud.
- A beautiful symphony to racial harmony.
- Opening holiday presents to using your gifts.
- Never going for their goals to living life on get-set
- A telephone call to your life’s calling.
- A train coming to your purpose in life.
- And many more
Here is a 3-Step Process for Developing your own Analogies:
- Take your main message and ask yourself, “What is this message similar to?”
- Make a list of all the ways the two things you are comparing are similar. For example, with a snakebite I might start my list with the following:
- The bite is similar to being hurt by someone
- The snake crawling back in its hole is similar to a person going away after they have hurt you
- The way the venom destroys your body is similar to how a grudge destroys your mind and life
- The freedom that comes from forgiveness is similar to the health you regain once the venom is out of you
- Once you make your list and draw out the analogy for several levels, then simply go back and pick the best one or two levels upon which you should focus. Don’t use all the levels because your audience will tire of it and say “Enough already.”
Another way to use the snake
(Personal note: In my early 20s, I had a Borneo Blood Python and a Columbian Boa constrictor so I thought of many analogies while staring at them. Actually, this leads to a solid point. If you look at something long enough, you’ll begin to see the similarities between it and something else).
Staying with the snake theme, I could use an analogy for change by comparing it to a snake shedding its skin. In that case I would make a list like the following:
- A snake that is not shedding completely is similar to a person who is holding on to some old habits and ways
- The temporary sight impairment a snake has during shedding is similar to the unknown zone we must go through during the change process
- A snake’s inability to shed leads to death, which is similar to an organization’s inability to change which leads to closing up shop.
One last point to keep in mind
Check to make sure the analogy you use is appropriate for your specific audience. For example, it may not be a good idea to use hunting analogies when speaking to an animal rights organization.
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One of the best ways to stay connected and deepen your connection with your audience is to let them beat you to the punch. What does this mean?
Let’s use some examples. Listen to this audio (37 seconds) and think about what happens after I say, “…in 1998.”
I could have simply kept going on with my speech by saying, “I joined Toastmasters in 1998, got my CTM in 1999…” However, I know something very important about my audience. They know I am the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking. This means they are figuring out in their minds that it only took me one year before winning the World Championship.
Let them Beat You To the Punch
My job as a speaker is to let them figure this out and beat me to the punch. In other words, instead of saying it, I let them think it first. Their thoughts beat my words to the punch. Then and only then do I finish what I’m going to say, but guess what? My audience is already there! That’s why they laughed and became vocal immediately after I said, “I joined Toastmasters in 1998.”
Let’s listen to another example (34 seconds) from a different story and experience what happens after I say the words, “Okay daddy.”
I could have simply kept going on with my speech by saying, “’Okay daddy.’ I got home the next and where was he?” However, I decided to let my audience beat me to the punch. I paused, gave them a look that expressed a sarcastic, “Yeah, right” and let my audience think, “Oh, I’m sure Ace climbed up there again.”
Nowadays, after Ace says, “Okay Daddy,” I turn to the audience and say, “Raise your hand if you’re a parent.” They laugh because they understand where I’m going with this and they’ve beaten me to the punch. Then and only then do I confirm what my audience is already thinking by letting them know he climbed up there again.
If you really listen closely to the audio, you’ll find something very interesting. I NEVER actually said he climbed back up there. I let my audience say it! In a way, they filled in that part of the story without me having to actually say it. Then I simply picked up my story at the point where I said, “Ace what are you doing up there?”
Dialogue not Monologue
This is what I love about speaking. I learned from Bill Gove that speaking should be a dialogue and not a monologue. People buy into what they help create. Letting your audience beat you to the punch at strategic times during your speech makes them feel like they’re creating part of your speech, which deepens their involvement.
Let’s listen to one more quick example (47 seconds) of me letting my audience beat me to the punch. Experience what happens after I say the words, “Get lucky.”
I could have simply kept going on with my speech by saying, “Do you want to get lucky? Then stay ready.” However, I decided to let my audience beat me to the punch.
I looked one audience member in the eyes when I said, “Do you want to get lucky?” In this case, this person happened to be dressed in a costume (complete with a wig and a Marilyn Monroe-type outfit) for an event later that night. I let my audience beat me to the punch before I confirmed their thoughts by saying, “I’m looking at the wrong person…” This audience member got a real kick out of it and so did the audience.
Make no mistake about it, my audience beat me to the punch with their thoughts and then I confirmed it with my words.
How can you apply this “Let them beat you to the punch” strategy?
You can follow these 2 steps to use this seldom-used strategy.
1. Find the place
2. Give it space
Find the Place
First, you’ll have to come to an understanding of where in your speech you can use this strategy. You don’t choose the place; your audience does. Over time you’ll see where they beat you to the punch because you’ll be able to hear them wanting to chime in or be vocal.
But here’s the problem: you’ll never know this unless you record your speeches. You can’t monitor yourself on the spot, but you can certainly monitor yourself afterwards IF you’ve recorded your speech. That’s why I always say
What gets recorded gets rewarded
Whenever you begin to see where your audience is anticipating your next words, those are some of the places where you want to let them beat you to the punch.
Give it Space
Next, one thing you heard me do in every audio clip was to pause and let it happen. You must give space to let your audience think and beat you to the punch. You audience will take a cue from you and you can accomplish this with a facial expression like I used with my son’s story. The audience will take that cue and chime in.
Is it critical that you use this strategy? No. Will it deepen your connection when you do? Absolutely. Will it separate you from the pack of other speakers? Definitely.
When you partner like this with your audience throughout your entire presentation, you’ll find yourself connected at the core with them, time will fly by, and everyone will have a blast. So let them beat you to…
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You saw the title so let’s jump right in with 17 storytelling ideas that will breathe life into your speeches and keep your audiences engaged.
Idea Number One: Start your stories in different places. You don’t have to start a story at the beginning. You can start it in the middle or even at the end. For example, I could start a story like this:
“There I was, standing on stage with the 1st place trophy at the 1999 World Championship of Public Speaking. Life as a speaker was great! However, it didn’t start out that way. In fact, back in 1995…”
You can give the end and then work your way back to how you got there. Mix it up with each story. Don’t start them all in the same place.
Idea Number Two: Keep your audience curious from the beginning. What questions can you plant in the minds of your audience members that they’ll want answered during the story? For example, I start off one of my stories with, “You might not have realized this but…I’m black. Hold on, let me tell you how I found this out!” Along with uncovering some humor, this line makes my audience curious as to what happened and, therefore, they’re happy to come on the journey with me.
Idea Number 3: Get to your stories quicker. There’s way too much set-up (what I call “pre-ramble”) for many of the stories I see. Get to the story quickly and then go rapidly into the conflict.
Idea Number 4: Take your time between your lines. That’s where the story lives…in the space between the lines. Don’t rush to get to your next line. Instead, find ways to milk the line you just gave. In several of my stories, the majority of the laughs come from the looks rather than the lines. However, you have to give yourself space for that.
Idea Number 5: Condense to connect. When you give a scene with two (or more) characters talking in dialogue, don’t tell us everything, just tell us something. Try not to go back and forth between characters with lines of dialogue more than 2-3 times. Otherwise, your audience will quickly grow tired. Instead, put all of the important statements in no more than a couple of lines of dialogue.
Idea Number 6: Use character dialogue (with a quick narration set-up) in order to shorten your stories and pump life into them. There’s far too much narration in many stories. Dialogue will shorten your stories.
Idea Number 7: Don’t just establish a conflict, escalate it.
Idea Number 8: Don’t be the Guru of your own story. Let us know who or what gave you the cure that changed your life for the better. You can be the hero (the person who overcame his conflict) but don’t be the Guru (the person who showed you how).
Idea Number 9: Show the emotional change in your character AFTER you overcome OR transcend your conflict. No change, no story.
Idea Number 10: Realize it’s the looks you give before, during, and/or after the lines that really tell the story. Or as my friend, Darren LaCroix, says, “Reactions tell the story.”
Idea Number 11: Make sure you have a Foundational Phrase that your audience can easily remember and repeat. It should be rhythmic, you-focused (meaning audience-focused), and preferably fewer than 10 words. For example, one of my foundational phrases is, “Don’t get ready, stay ready.” My audiences can use that phrase as a guide moving forward.
Idea Number 12: When delivering the lines of your characters, use their posture, positioning, and a “slight” change in your voice (whether it’s pace, pitch, volume, etc.) to make that person come alive and be different from the other characters. For example, you might have a character that is stern and so he has a very stiff posture and possibly crosses his arms and frowns when he talks.
Idea Number 13: Be subtle with everything you do delivery-wise. For example, you don’t need to speak with a child’s voice when delivering the lines of a child. Instead, speak with your voice (with maybe a little higher pitch) but deliver it with the child’s expression. He or she can also look up to show that the child is talking to an adult.
Idea Number 14: Come out of your story to talk to the audience. Remember, you are NOT doing a stage-play. You’re supposed to be having a conversation with your audience. When you get into a story, you don’t have to lose that conversation. Instead, mix the story with the conversation. For example, I have a story that goes like this:
“You should have been with my wife and me 11 years ago as we took our 6 month-old daughter, Tori, to the doctors. Raise your hand if you have kids? Great, then YOU know the doctor is going to measure her length and her weight…” Even though I already started my story, I looked to find ways to keep bringing my audience members into it. I call these “You-focused check-ins.” They keep the audience on their toes because, instead of being passive spectators, they become active participants.
Idea Number 15: When your story is over and you’ve given your Foundational Phrase, you don’t need to ramble on about the point. First of all, the story actually makes the point. The Foundational Phrase makes the point memorable. If you keep talking and trying to drive the point home, your audience will want the ride to end.
Idea Number 16: Invite your audience members into your scene. For example, I might say, ”Imagine being in my passenger’s seat as I went through the KFC drive-thru.” My audience members are now in my passenger’s seat for that story.
Idea Number 17: With a few exceptions, keep your stories short. The longer you work on a story, the shorter it should get. I try to keep most of mine under 4 minutes.
There you have it…17 storytelling ideas that will breathe life into every speech.
What are some ideas you have that have helped with your stories?
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Recently I have received many questions from my speaking students regarding rehearsal. They say, “Craig, how do you rehearse? It seems like you really feed off the audience but you must rehearse, right?”
The answer is yes. I rehearse. In fact, the main reason why I rehearse is so I can feed off my audience while still staying on track with my message.
So instead of just explaining what I do to rehearse, I came up with another idea. I figured, “Why don’t I simply invite you to a behind-the-scenes peak at my rehearsal?”
Welcome to My Rehearsal
So here’s what I did. Five years ago I had a speech scheduled for Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and I decided to record my rehearsal. Instead of sharing the entire rehearsal with you, I’m only going to share two quick 90-second segments. So here’s the layout of this post:
- First you’ll hear a quick 90-second rehearsal of a piece of one of my stories
- Then you’ll hear that same 90-second clip of me live in South Dakota doing that same part of the story
- Then you’ll hear another 90-second rehearsal clip of another piece of that same story
- Finally you’ll hear another 90-second clip of me live in South Dakota doing that same part of the story
When you listen to the clips, you’ll undoubtedly hear some differences. However, the message will be the same and the differences you hear will be me reacting and responding and feeding off of my audience. Click the play buttons below to hear the clips. Afterwards you’ll see 5 Guidelines you should consider following when it comes to rehearsing your speech.
Rehearsal piece #1
Live piece #1
Rehearsal piece #2
Live piece #2
Ritual #1: Do not look into a mirror. Why? Because your speech is not about you. You wouldn’t look into a mirror when you’re actually speaking to your audience, would you? Then you shouldn’t do it during rehearsal. Rehearsal should mimic the actual performance, so make it as similar as possible. If you want to see what you look like, then record yourself on video and watch it once you finish.
Ritual #2: Imagine your audience is in front of you. It’s not enough to just practice knowing your words. It’s important to really see your future audience members. What are they doing? How are they reacting? How will you respond to their reactions? Who are you looking at and when? Where are you moving and when? This is what I call speaking your way into speaking. Believe it or not, some speakers think rehearsal is sitting down and memorizing your speech. My belief is that you should not sit down and memorize; you should stand up and internalize. You do that by rehearsing as if your audience is really there.
Ritual #3: Do at least one mental rehearsal. This, more than any other ritual, has been the most effective and meaningful to me. Here’s what I do. I close my eyes and go through the entire presentation in my mind. I see my audience and feel them around me. I mouth the words and make it as realistic as possible. This process is so powerful for one major reason: Once you arrive on stage, you’ll feel like you’re at home. Why? Because you’ve been there before.
Ritual #4: Don’t look for perfection; look for connection. If you stumble over words or do something that’s not 100% correct, don’t worry about it. It’s not about perfection, it’s about connection. Just keep moving on. Chances are you’re the only one who will notice anyway. Plus, perfection is boring. This guideline goes for the rehearsal and for the real speech.
Ritual #5: Exaggerate whatever needs work. For example, if you don’t pause long enough after making important statements, then really exaggerate the extended pause in rehearsal. Or if you constantly speak at the same energy level (or pace or volume, etc.), exaggerate your contrasts. If you exaggerate it in rehearsal, even though the adrenaline of the live performance has the tendency to make you revert to your old ways, you’ll be sufficiently stretched enough to fix the flaw.
What is one of your rehearsal rituals? I’m very interested to see the different ways people rehearse…IF they rehearse.
Final thoughts on Rehearsing for Remarkable Results
I have no doubt that you heard some differences between my rehearsal sessions and my live speech. They probably included a different energy, pace, and even slightly different content. This is because nothing can replace the live speech. However, you should try as hard as you can to make your rehearsal sessions as similar as possible to your live speech. That means pretend you really are with your audience. That way, once they do finally show up, they won’t have to pretend they’re really are with you.
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What are Speakers Neglecting to do?
So often I’ll coach a speaker who does everything right with his story until the end of it. He establishes the conflict, escalates it, and gets the cure or revelation. But guess what happens then? He ends the story!
Hello, do you mean to tell me you’re going to take us down to the depths of your struggle and make us relive those down times with you and then, when you get to the big payoff part of your journey, we’re not invited?
If you take us through the problem, make sure you take us through the payoff
One payoff I have involves a Vice-President of a company trying to offer me more money so that I won’t leave the organization to pursue my dream. It was a struggle (problem) because I felt like I couldn’t leave. My wife then told me, “Craig, your dream is not for sale.”
So I went back to the Vice President of the company and told him, “My wife said my dream is not for sale.” With the help of my wife, I overcame the conflict. After overcoming the conflict, you can listen below to hear what I gave as the payoff (the Change).
That’s a heck of a payoff isn’t it? It encourages other people to not let the good get in the way of the best in their lives too and not to sell out their dreams. They’re 80% across the bridge to buying into my message and I haven’t even driven home the point yet.
Don’t take us through a problem without taking us through the payoff.
In fact, I strongly suggest that you make the payoff at least equal to (and hopefully greater than) the problem in terms of your emotions. That’s why I intentionally say, “…and I’m HAPPY to say I’ve been running my mouth ever since.”
Happy is the emotion. Keep in mind, I also have to show “happy” on my face and in my body and in my energy. Remember Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “What you ARE speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.” Show it while you say it.
Why is the Payoff Important?
This payoff is very important to your audience because it pushes them 80% across the bridge to heeding your message (i.e. chasing your dream) before you even begin to drive the message home. In other words, when you take them through your emotional payoff, the story gets their buy-in.
So many speeches are ruined by neglecting to have a payoff that is at least equal (and hopefully greater than) the problem in terms of your emotions.
Remember, people make decisions with emotion backed up by logic. Therefore, you can’t simply tell them the payoff. You need to show them the payoff through your own emotional victory. Relive it.
How can you make sure have an effective Payoff?
The questions to ask yourself to help clarity and emphasize your payoff are the following:
- What was my payoff?
- What happened to me after I transcended my conflict?
- How did my life change for the better?
- How did I feel after I overcame that conflict?
- How can I express that feeling to my audience so they’ll know how much the payoff meant to me and how much a similar payoff can mean to them?
- How can I SHOW THE PAYOFF on my face, through my body language, and in my newfound energy?
The stronger your payoff, the easier it will be for people to buy-into your message even before you drive it home.
Post the following statement somewhere you can see it:
If you take us through the problem, take us through the payoff
Note: If you’d like help with your payoff or any other part of your story, click here to access my best-selling program called the Edge Of Their Seats Storytelling Home-Study Course for Speakers. You’ll be glad you did.
In fact, to thank you for being a loyal reader of my newsletter, you can use the following COUPON CODE to get a $100 discount on the program: 11815. Make sure you hit APPLY after you enter the code. This offer lasts until January 18th, 2015 (hence the code).
What is one payoff you share with your audience? What’s the emotion?