Oh, this one’s an easy question to answer: your story. I don’t care if you are giving a speech about the company’s 3rd Quarter profits, or telling an audience about the best way to water-proof a roof, if you work a personal story into your speech it will instantly become a memorable speech. Now with that being said, if you do a bad job of working your personal story into your speech you will probably bore your audience to death. Hmmm, I wonder what the secret to doing this correctly is…
The first thing that you need to realize is that if you just up and tell a personal story, the odds are that it’ll fall flat. Although we might think that every story we have to tell is a great tale, this simply is not the case. Instead, your story needs to be taken out, sharpened, and perhaps even polished just a bit before you tell it to an audience. One way to get things started is to sit down and just write / type it all out. Don’t hold back here, just make it as long as it wants to be. Capture your story of overcoming a challenge, fighting a setback, dealing with a health issue, bad relationship, or financial disaster in all of it’s glory. Remember, your audience was not there so you need to remember what it felt like and communicate what all of your five senses were feeling.
Once you have it all written down, now is the time to start to shape it. Your story needs a good clear opening. Let your audience know why this is important. You also need to be aware of just how much time your have for your speech and your story within your speech. You’ll need to trim it down to fit the time available.
Once you’ve got your personal story sorta looking like it’s ready for prime time, now is the time to do some extra checking in order to make sure that it really is a good story to tell. The first thing that you can do is to be very clear about where and when your story took place. Instead of saying “back when I was in college” instead you need to say “12 years ago…” This will allow your audience to better identify with your story.
We all love movies and we’re use to watching them. Just like a movie, your personal story will “play” better if you are able to tell it as a series of connected scenes. Your words will paint scenes in your audience’s minds and these images will then blend together to create a complete movie of your story for them.
Create some drama by telling your story just like you felt it. If you hold back on some information and allow the audience to discover it just as you did, the tension in the room will quickly start to rise. The good thing about creative tension is that it means that your audience will be hanging on your every word.
Finally, you need a great conclusion that brings your audience back into the here and now. One way to do this to take just a moment and explain why the story that you told was so important to you. What did it all mean to you? Your personal story is yours and yours alone. You never have to worry about someone else telling it because it’s all about you. Good luck in adding a personal speech to your next public speaking opportunity and making it unforgettable!
Have you ever had a chance to work a personal story into a speech? How did that speech turn out? Do you take the time to practice personal stories or do you just wing it because you knew the story so well? Have you ever heard a speaker tell a personal story that was badly done? What was wrong with it? Leave a comment and let me know what you are thinking.