Consider these experiences:
—During one of our Sunday walks, my husband commented that I was interrupting him. I apologized. Yet a few minutes later, he interrupted me. I asked, with a smile on my face, “How come I am not allowed to interrupt you, but you can interrupt me?” His response: “Is there a right answer to that question?”
—A woman in one of my seminars told me about a delivery man who routinely walked into the office where she worked and greeted the women with “Hi, Hot Mommas.” One of her coworkers told him: “Please don’t call me ‘Hot Momma,’ regardless of whether I am or not.” The next day, the man again visited the office and said, “Hi, Hot Mommas” – and then pointed to the woman who had confronted him and added “…except for you.”
My presentations include many stories, and the examples above will find their way into some of my future seminars. Good stories reinforce and/or prove your key points. They create a picture for your audience, bringing to life the information you want to convey and making it much more memorable than a recitation of statistics or data.
Following the steps below will help you to add stories to your presentations:
1. View your experiences as opportunities to find stories. Very few of my seminar participants forget my story of going to the bathroom with my mic on. I use it to illustrate the point that it’s not what happens to you that matters, it is how you handle what happens to you. Every story doesn’t have to be as extreme as my mic incident. You will soon build a reservoir of potential stories if:
- You observe something that illustrates a point in your presentation.
- Someone says, “That happened to me…” in response to some point you are making. That person’s anecdote can add another voice to your information.
- You reference someone in an article or book, or on a website, who proves your point.
2. Keep a story file. Write down or copy just enough detail of the story material so you will remember what happened. Keep this information in an electronic file or in an old-fashioned manila folder so the story will be readily available.
3. Prepare the story. When you start to put your presentation together, go to your file and choose appropriate examples to support your points. Don’t use people’s names, unless you have their approval or the person is clearly a public figure. Don’t criticize or belittle anyone, and don’t lie – but you can embellish the details a little for dramatic effect or to protect someone’s identity. However, never embellish specific details, such as statistics. Tread lightly with humor. It can be effective, but it can also bomb badly.
4. Practice. In business presentations, shorter stories generally work best. Once you have chosen a story you want to use, practice saying it out loud, using as few words as necessary to convey your point.
The more you include stories in your presentations, the more comfortable you become using them. Additional information on presentation skills can be found in my book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes. Happy Tales!
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