Tales by the Moonlight: Storytelling and public speaking

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the-story-teller

We all remember our favorite childhood stories and more importantly, we remember the storyteller. The uncle with the booming voice and loud laugh who could put you on his knee and thrill you with stories of danger and excitement; the elderly neighbor with the gentle voice – she always had a story about “back in her day”.

I remember when my aunt was still dating my uncle; we called him ‘Uncle Magic’ then and he always had a crazy story to tell. His hair was always perfectly barbed – low and close to the scalp on the back and on the sides and high on top. The longer hair on top of his head was always curly and shiny, in fact it had an almost crisp quality to it, like if you touched it, it wouldn’t move. We always asked, “Uncle Magic how do you do your hair like that”? And he always responded with a story that can be summed up in three words: “I fry it”.

My tiny mind always pictured him with a frying pan on the stove, bent over with his top hair sizzling in the pan, “how strange!” I would think as I laughed at him. I still laugh today, who can believe I fell for that?! But decades later, I still remember him for that funny little story, and if you met ‘Uncle Magic’ today, you would too!

 

 

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English writer, Philip Pullman says,

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world”,

and in many ways, stories themselves are nourishment, shelter and companionship.

 

 

 

 

A good story, well told, can have the impact of a major world event – it carves itself into the memories and subconscious of the one who hears it. Stories resonate with every human being – a toddler asking for a bedtime story, a young woman finding romance in the pages of her novel or an elderly couple recounting their years together – and that is why stories remain one of the most powerful tools available to public speakers. When did you last share a story in your speech or presentation? Hopefully the last time you spoke! When did you last share a story well in your speech or presentation?

 

Here are some tips to help you tell stories that will stand the test of time:

 

1. Get your story right: There’s nothing worse than listening intently to a speaker telling a story, getting halfway to the climax and suddenly being let down because the speaker forgot her own plot. Actually there is something worse…being the speaker who did it! Always have your story fully prepared and make sure it makes sense to you before you narrate the story.

 

2. Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse: A well-rehearsed story is more effective than an unplanned one. A rehearsed story means a confident narrator, a captivating theme and a take-home point.  Tell your story to yourself and few close pals before you go up on stage to share with the crowd.

 

3. Add a spice of showbiz: A powerful story told in a monotone voice is equivalent to reading from an old history book: boring! Work on your voice, its tone, tempo and variety. When do you slow down? Where do you pick up the pace? Where do you raise your voice and where do you lower it to a solemn whisper? When you share the story on stage, watch out for the crowd’s reaction…when do they lean in to listen? What makes them smile…did you intend to do that? What made them shake their heads? What galvanized their spirits and caused a reaction? Use the feedback to improve your storytelling.

 

4. Create a rich library: Avoid stories that have been over flogged and overused. Develop a collection of stories to illustrate your points because although your story is powerful today, it won’t be after sharing it 15 times with the same audience. Build a rich library of great stories by observing daily life, reading books and newspapers and watching videos and TV.

 

This is the only time we are allowed to tell tales, so enjoy it. Happy storytelling!

 

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