Delivery Lesson Five: Tell Stories

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Yes, this tip is content-related.  But our Delivery Lesson Five also relates to Lesson Four on showing your audience your true, authentic self.  The best way to show your audience who you really are is to tell a story about yourself.  You make a connection with your audience when you tell who you really are; that means your stories should be about your failures, your humanity, and your vulnerability.  As TED Commandment #IV orders: “Thou shalt not flaunt thine ego.  Be thou vulnerable.  Speak of thy failure as well as thy success” (Source).  Stories are a well-recognized presentation tool.  Learn more about why storytelling is important here and here.

Nancy Duarte says, “Personal stories are daunting to tell because the great stories have a conflict or complication to them that exposes humanness and flaws. But those are the stories that carry the most inherent power to change others. People enjoy following a leader who has survived personal hardship and shares the victory comfortably. It’s comforting to follow someone who’s already learned life’s hard lessons” (Source).

So just how does storytelling help your delivery?

When we tell stories about ourselves, stories we know so well because we’ve lived those moments, we don’t need a script.  We don’t need our notes.  We can get lost in the familiarity of the story and not only reveal something about ourselves to our audience, but also drop the act.  Imagine telling a close friend the story of the break up with the first person you ever loved or the loss of your first close relative.  Now imagine telling a group of people that same story.  No matter how many people you’re reliving that moment for, you can’t hide your emotions, your pain, your authentic reactions to that event.

An example of powerful delivery and storytelling can be seen in Leymah Gbowee’s TED Talk “Unlock the intelligence, passion, greatness of girls.”  In the first three minutes, Gbowee tells two powerful stories about two different girls from her past, and you immediately feel her emotions, her sadness, and her true self.  It only takes three minutes for an audience to understand Gbowee’s message, and she makes that connection through authentic delivery revealed through personal stories.  You must make time to watch her TED Talk below.  It’s truly inspirational and hopeful.

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Why do you think stories are so powerful in presentations?  How do you see stories helping a presenter’s overall delivery?