Let’s face it: a lot of the speeches that are given today are political speeches. They don’t have to be on the national level (although a lot of them are). They can be in our communities and they can be about things that are as small as getting potholes fixed or what to name the new elementary school. However, if we are going to go to the effort of making a political speech, then we really want our audience to understand the importance of public speaking and pay attention so that they side with us. If we want this to happen, then we’re going to have to learn how to work stories into our next political speech.
The Power Of a Good Story
Speakers always use stories in the speeches that they create. It turns out that politicians do the same. Real-life politics are increasingly influenced by the stories candidates tell about both themselves and the world around them. What these politicians realize is that the ability to build a political identity, not with rational arguments but by telling stories, has become the key to the conquest of power. These days many Americans judge politicians largely on the basis of how well they can relate to them. For this reason, politicians who have become skilled storytellers have a tremendous advantage in terms of their ability to create that important emotional connection with those whom they wish to influence.
Just like when we are building emotional bonds with an audience, these kinds of bonds are prime motivators for politicians. They use storytelling for other important reasons as well. When they can create a compelling narrative, it plants vivid, memorable images in voters’ heads. Granted, we understand that storytelling ability is only one of the many aspects of a politician’s success strategy, but how useful is it really?
Speakers need to know that rhetoric is the art of persuasion, and storytelling is a powerful rhetorical tool. Politicians know that it can be used for good or bad. How then can an audience judge a politician’s use of storytelling? If a politician’s story is supposed to be true, then it better be. If you make a mistake, admit it. While this advice is always important for anyone, it’s especially important for politicians and their stories, since those mistakes are apt to stick in the minds of voters, not to mention the media.
How To Build A Good Political Story
What does it take to build a good political story? Truth. Admitting mistakes. Clarity. Knowing what is important. If they can keep these points in mind, political storytellers can hope to use their powerful skill to help their cause. Speakers need to understand that a politician’s story also must be as clear as possible. Politicians have to know which points to highlight, and which to play down.
One political story begins with just this mission. The British statesman Winston Churchill, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, delivered a speech to his constituency in which he dismissed premature disarmament as a “folly.” He related his “disarmament fable”. The fable goes like this. Once upon a time all the animals in the zoo decided that they would disarm. They arranged to have a conference to arrange the matter. At this meeting the rhinoceros said, when he opened the proceedings, that the use of teeth was barbarous and horrible and ought to be strictly prohibited by general consent. Horns, which were mainly defensive weapons he said, would, of course, have to be allowed. While there is always the danger that an individual will feel insulted by being compared to an animal, the power of this tale was that it made an indelible point without naming names.
Ultimately, speakers need to realize that storytelling is just one way in which politicians present themselves. Voters can look at the sum total of candidates’ words, actions and policies before casting their ballots. Given the overwhelming power of political storytelling, if we can get good at telling political stories then that may be a tall order.
What All Of This Means For You
We all know that giving speeches give a speaker power over their audience. Politicians have realized this also and so that is why they like to give so many speeches. However, not all political speeches are the same. It is possible to give a political speech that does not do its job – the audience does not realize the benefits of public speaking. If a political speaker wants to be able to connect with their audience, then they are going to have to find a way to work stories into their speech. Stories are the way that politicians can connect with their audience.
Today’s politics are influenced by the stories that politicians tell. Many people judge a politician by the stories that they tell. Voters can remember politicians who tell good stories. When a politician tells a story it had better be a true story. Political stories have to be as clear as possible. Additionally, politicians have to know what points to highlight and what points to play down. If a politician can tell a good story, then it will be remembered for a very long time. Stories may just be part of a politician, but they can be a big part.
Speakers have always known that stories carry a great deal of power when we work them into our speeches. The speakers who are giving political speeches are once again rediscovering the power of stories. If they can create memorable stories that their audience will enjoy and retain, then their chances of getting elected just got better. The next time you are listening to a politician give a speech, listen to their stories and see if they connect with you.
Question For You: How many stories do you think that a politician can work into a single 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 www.Toastmasters.org. 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
When we give a speech, because of the importance of public speaking, we really want our audience to remember what we have told them. There are many different ways to go about making this happen; however, one of the most powerful ways is to start to include stories in you speech. Stories are what cause your audience to start to build vivid mental images of what you are talking about. Stories allow you to introduce additional characters so that it’s not just you standing on the stage. Stories are what can make your next speech memorable. If stories are so great, then how can we go about adding them to a speech?