If you’re fed up with being told to include more personal stories in your presentations, I know how that feels.
For several years, having entered the world of speaking as part of my business model, I struggled to find my own stories.
Despite the assurance from anyone offering me feedback that ‘you do have a story, everyone does,’ I still couldn’t see why anyone would want to hear my very ordinary and unexceptional story.
What didn’t help was that I had the good fortune to hear a lot of excellent speakers sharing their incredible, awesome and powerful stories, making mine seem even more insignificant and unworthy of being aired in public.
Does any of that resonate with you?
I tried to convince myself that I could get around the story issue by making sure I gave good content and delivered it competently. What more could I do, because you can’t make stories up, can you?
I still don’t really know what happened to shake the penny down, but it seemed as if I woke up one morning realising that I do indeed have a story worth sharing (by the way, this is it!!) and that in addition to that main story, I sit on 1,000’s of other ordinary everyday stories that I can draw on in my speaking.
And that will be the case for you too, even if you’re not yet able to see it.
So let’s take a look at:
Why stories are indeed so important
The different kinds of story you could share
A few prompts on where to find them.
Why Stories are so important
If stories are so important, who are they important for? If you know you share good content, and are regularly told so, why do you need to add a story into the mix?
Stories are important for your audience, for you and for your business.
Although we can look at those 3 categories separately, they all intertwine and impact each other.
Let’s start with your audience.
Think about this from a listener’s point of view.
Which kind of presentation are you more likely to sit up and listen to – one that goes into a lot of data from the outset, or one that begins with a story?
Which kind of presentation is easier to follow – one full of information to process, maybe some facts and figures and things you need to do, or one that includes a human story?
Which kind of presentation are you more likely to remember – one that was full of information and things the speaker wants you to do going forward, or one where the message was wrapped up in a story?
I hope you can start to see that sharing stories creates greater engagement, greater understanding of your content and greater retention, all of which are much more likely to result in your audience taking the action you want them to take and ultimately to them coming back to you to work with.
For the audience:
Perhaps the most obvious benefit for your audience is that stories are generally more engaging, inspiring and motivational than a presentation full of content, and especially if that content includes a lot of hard data.
Stories are easier to process, using a different part of the brain. We connect to them using our emotions rather than our intellect, in turn making the speaker – you – more relatable and the content usually more memorable.
For me, the overriding reason for sharing your story is that however mundane you might think it is, someone somewhere needs to hear it. They need to hear it from you and they need to hear it today, in order to motivate them to make maybe just a small change in an aspect of their life that could go on to change their life completely.
Does that give you enough reason on its own to use stories?
What does that mean for your business?
If speaking is part of your business model, whether paid or otherwise, you need to know that it’s working for you and sharing your stories can help you with that.
When you engage your audience’s emotions, their emotions align with yours, making it much more likely that they’ll be drawn to taking the next steps towards working with you.
Your stories also become part of your business brand. Other businesses might offer similar services to you but they don’t have the same stories. Your stories set you apart because they’re yours.
As well as becoming part of the business brand, your stories become part of your personal brand, part of what you’re known and remembered for.
On a personal level, they also make you more vulnerable and therefore more human.
Inspiring someone else to make a positive change in their life because they heard you tell your story has got to be one of the greatest self-esteem boosters there is, so think of the knock-on effect of that on you and your business
Where can you find them?
Stories happen to us every day, whether we’re doing something or nothing. The problem is, we usually let them go by unnoticed, or we forget all about them until something or someone triggers a memory.
Imagine a get together with friends or family, where the conversation starts like this: ‘Do you remember that time when…?’ How many other stories then tumble out on the back of that first one?
When I’m working one to one with people, I pick up a few hints as to where there might be a story lurking based on what they tell me about their life history, and here are just a few that might trigger a memory for you:
Or on a more light-hearted level:
The list goes on.
Anything coming up? If so, make a note of it – it can disappear again just as quickly.
Even if you started reading this piece thinking you don’t have a story, I hope you’re now at least open to the possibility that you do.
It’s important to share them in your presentations for the audience, your business and you.
All sorts of ideas trigger the memory of a story – and when that happens, make a note of it somewhere.
So however mundane and boring you think it is, however many other people might be out there telling similar stories and regardless of how competently they’re doing that and how well-known they are, nobody else has experienced your story in the way that you’ve experienced it and nobody else can tell your story in the way that you do.
So please – tell your stories.
If you’d like help in finding them or in crafting them into your presentations, let’s have a conversation because I can help you. Why not book a call now?
Rachel Maunder is a communication skills and speaker coach and professional speaker.
She has been in the world of competent communication, in different guises, for more than 30 years so has a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise to pass on to her clients, both through her signature programmes and her own presentations.