Are you a STORYTELLER? Storytelling is the ancient art of conveying events, real, imaginary, or a combination of both, via words, images and sounds. Often the best way to get a story started is to pick up a pen and notepad and to write the first thing that comes into your mind. In this way you drift along naturally your pen stroking, caressing and sometimes spiking the notepad in front of you. As you express yourself this way, with natural flow, you generate a rich body of material much of which will become the cornerstone of your final speech. Great speeches, however, are rarely written “one-off,” invariably they need further editing, refinement and often it is only after major surgery and multiple drafts they reveal themselves to you in their full glory. Leonard Cohen had this to say of his writing struggle with his hit song Hallelujah:
“I filled two notebooks and I remember being in the Royalton Hotel [in New York], on the carpet in my underwear, banging my head on the floor and saying, “I can’t finish this song.””
To get to this stage of “full glory,” however, requires a deep understanding of the specific elements of storytelling:
• Strong beginning
• Original material
• Simple to understand
• Repeats central theme
• Introduces variety
• Builds momentum
• Uses memorable words and phrases
• Powerful ending
Standing to speak in public is no easy matter. Yet, when you take time to prepare what you will say the task becomes more manageable. And, when you include the elements of storytelling within your speech your chance of a successful outcome dramatically improves. So as a public speaker the question you face today is this: Are you a STORYTELLER?
The Speakers College
When you stand to speak do you Twitter Twitter?
I recently attended a marketing seminar where it soon became obvious the speaker adored the sound of his own voice. In the overheated room he fell in love with his arguments, the different angles and permutations of thought but sadly was forever going off on a tangent. I could see others begin to fidget, yawn and doodle on their notepads but oblivious to all this still he went on and on and on: Twitter Twitter!
I confess after half an hour I was completely lost. At first I thought he sounded clever, next confused and finally just downright annoying. I couldn’t wait for the coffee break and the earliest possible opportunity to escape. The sad thing was the guy really did know what he was talking about but he had forgotten the first rule of public speaking – keep it simple and never say too much.
Great speakers have focus. They never lose sight of their objective. Their vision is laser-like. They write in simple English and speak in an even “easier-to-understand” way. Barack Obama is a master of this particular art form. And let’s face it if speaking like that can get you elected to The White House why on earth, when you next stand to speak, would you want to Twitter Twitter?
The Speakers College
Professional stage performers, actors, musicians and comedians in particular will tell you this simple truth: LESS is MORE!
If you are an actor and attempt to convey every emotion you ultimately convey none, if you are a musician and provide no obvious “hook” – an easy tune to remember, your music is easily forgotten and if you are a comedian who fluffs his punch-line don’t expect laughter but stony silence or perhaps worse.
As a public speaker you too face this challenge. If you don’t believe me listen and you will hear speakers who spout a thousand words when ten well chosen ones would have done. You will observe speakers stride from one side of the stage to the other without thinking of their impact and you’ll be puzzled by those who gesture without apparent purpose.
In informed circles this type of performance is considered an insult to the craft of professional public speaking. It demonstrates that the speaker has not thought about his words, actions and impact. Public speaking above all is a discipline that requires hours of practice, study and thought. Here is what James Maxton MP wrote in 1922 about public speaking:
“(It) calls out all the latent will-power, character and intellect a man possesses. Reading and study are both essential if a man is going to be a first class platform speaker, but the only way to learn to speak is to speak and the experience of speaking will compel study.”
As Maxton so rightly pointed out it is only through experience, study and reflection you learn this simple truth: when you speak in public LESS is MORE!
The Speakers College