If you are like me, you don’t really seek out politicians to add to your list of friends. However, whenever an issue comes up that we really care about, all of a sudden we have a habit of becoming very, very interested in politics. As speakers, we need to realize that politicians are also speakers who just happen to realize the importance of public speaking. What might set them apart from us is that they give speeches with a very specific goal – to get or remain elected. Perhaps we can learn something from how they tell stories…
I almost feel embarrassed for bringing this one up – honest politicians? Well, this is the way that it works: when a politician tells a story, it has to be believable by the audience that is hearing it. If there is any part of the story that is fabricated or has been changed from the way that it really happened, then the politician is going to be in trouble. We have been taught to instinctively not trust what politicians tell us. This means that if a story that they are sharing with us becomes unbelievable, then the point of that story is going to be lost on us.
Own Your Mistakes
I make mistakes, you make mistakes, politicians make mistakes. If when a politician tells a story part of it turns out to not be correct (often times things have changed), then he or she needs to come clean when the discrepancy is discovered. If they learn it before their audience does, then they can gain a great deal of credibility by being the first to bring it up.
Clarity Counts Also
One of the big challenges that any speaker has when they are telling a story is that stories tend to be long. When something is long, your audience can become confused or lost while you are telling it. Politicians need to be aware of this and go to special lengths to make sure that the stories that they tell are very clear. The goal is to hook the audience at the beginning and then to keep them with you throughout the telling of the entire story.
Highlight What Really Counts
What’s interesting when telling a political story is that every audience that you’ll be telling it to is just a little bit different. What this means for you is that the part of your story that you choose to highlight should change each and every time that you tell it. Make sure that the parts that will resonate with your current audience are the ones that you focus on and everything else can be downplayed.
What All Of This Means For You
Politicians are speakers who understand the benefits of public speaking and who speak with a purpose – to get elected. One of their most powerful tools is the story. As speakers we can learn a thing or two by taking a look at how politicians use stories to communicate their message to an audience.
When a politician tells a story, they need to be honest. Anything that even hints at an untruth will cause them to lose their audience. We all make mistakes and politicians do also. However, when they screw up, they need to step right up and own their mistakes if they want their audience to keep listening to them. Stories can be winding and unclear if we are not careful. A politician’s telling of a story always has to be clear and he or she needs to highlight the right points.
No matter how you feel about politics or politicians, I think that we can all agree that the successful ones are generally very good speakers. We can learn a lot from them. Take the time to listen to how a politician tells a story and then use those techniques in your next speech and you just might get elected!
Question For You: How many stories do you think that you can fit into a 30-minute 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
The ultimate goal for any of the speeches that we give is to have them be remembered. The real challenge for all of us is to find ways to leverage the importance of public speaking and make this happen. The good news is that there is a simple, time-tested method that can transform a ho-hum speech into one that will be able to be recalled long after you are done talking. What is this secret technique you ask? Simple: it’s storytelling.