How To Use Pictures In Your Next Speech

We can use storytelling to create mental images for our audience
We can use storytelling to create mental images for our audience Image Credit: Jaime Pérez

The goal of any speech that we give is to be remembered. If we do this right, then our audience will remember both our speech and the person who gave it – us! However, it turns out that it’s really not all that easy to give a speech that will be remembered. Our audiences are distracted and they have a lot of things going on in their lives. If we want to get them to remember our speech, we’re going to have to find a way to capture their attention and get them to really listen to us. We need a plan.

It’s All About The Picture

Speakers need to understand that our brains are hard-wired for stories; enjoying and learning through stories is in our DNA. Additionally, many of our earliest relationships and experiences center on storytelling in groups. So it is logical that speakers who are storytellers attract interest and attention. It turns out that storytelling also has an effect on memory, enabling an audience to hold onto details longer, in part because they are presented in a logical sequence.

It is believed that the most powerful tool in intercultural communication is telling a story. Speakers need to understand that a story is what audiences walk away with. Because your stories make your audience feel, your listeners remember them long after they’ve forgotten anything else you’ve said. The act of storytelling naturally brings people closer. Imagine I am telling you a story about a pig and a duck in the forest. In your audience’s mind’s eye, they are most likely picturing these animals. I haven’t told them what they look like – small or big, male or female – but they have a general idea of their physical characteristics, so they can fill in the blanks. By doing this, you are completing, or what storytellers call co-creating, the story with your audience. That gives both the speaker and the audience partial ownership of the experience and a closer link to you as the storyteller.

The ability to plant sensory images in an audience’s mind that allow them to see, smell, hear, feel or taste things that don’t actually exist is a powerful speaking skill. So is the ability to hold an audience’s attention, as anyone looking for love can tell you. The core skills that a speaker needs to know how to do – conversing with ease, negotiating, handling criticism, coaching and expressing dissatisfaction – can all be enhanced by the targeted use of storytelling by a speaker.

Boosting Your Storytelling Abilities

In our speeches we often encounter a situation where we would like to have a conversation with our audience. Perhaps we have a series of facts that we would like to be able to share with them. There are, of course a number of different ways that we can go about doing this. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to include a story in your speech in which you use the story to give an example of what you want to explain to your audience in the story that you are telling. There will be times in which you find yourself giving a speech where you will need to find a way to break the ice between you and an audience that you don’t know. Your goal in doing this needs to be to use a story to come up with a way to find common ground between you and your audience. This will allow you to build a framework that you can use to create a successful relationship between you and your audience.

Not all of our speeches go the way that we think that they are going to go. There will be times that our audience turns on us. Either they don’t like us (it does happen) or they don’t like what we are telling them. When this happens, we can encounter verbal criticism. When this happens, we need to make some decisions about how we want to respond to it. The best way to handle a situation like this is to do so in a non-defensive manner. If we choose to do this, it will require, among other things, our paraphrasing our thoughts and feelings. One way to do this is by using a story. Repeating our story can show our audience that you have really listened, which can calm the situation. Many of the speeches that we give to an audience are designed to explain what needs to be improved. One way that we can go about doing this is by highlighting the problem with the strong images of a story. If we can create an effective way to go about doing this then it can be extremely useful. When we find ourselves in these types of situations, we may become unhappy. If you want to communicate to your audience that you are unhappy a good way to go about doing this is to vividly state the problem through a story.

What All Of This Means For You

As speakers, we need to keep in mind that stories are powerful tools that we can use in our speeches. However, just like any other tool, if we don’t use them correctly then they can cause damage. In most cases, the stories that we use are short. A speaker who fills a speech with stories to the exclusion the audience’s opinions, feelings or their own stories may not always be a bore, but is certainly a boor in this case. Speakers have to always remember that a speech is a two-way street.

We also have to realize that another potential problem is when the same story is interpreted in several different ways by your audience. To avoid being misunderstood, be sure that you control the message of your story, even if you need to be so obvious as to say, “The moral of the story is … .” When used effectively by a speaker, storytelling is a powerful tool. By knowing how it works and what it can do, you can find ways to use it to your advantage.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that it is possible to put too many stories into a speech?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

We all give speeches for different reasons. There will be times that we are called on to give a speech in which we will try to teach something new to our audience. These are not easy speeches for us to give. However, it turns out that if we really want to make an impact on our audience and we want them to remember what we tell them, then a great way to make this happen is to add some humor to our speech. This is not simple. We need to do it in the right way so that we are able to make what we are trying to teach them stick. The good news is that if done correctly, we can use humor to educate.