Speaking Tips: In Storytelling you are the visual aid

Sharing a wonderful moment

Tom standing on stage in front of the Titanic Centenary Banner, in the Ball Room at Blacktown Workers Club on Friday 13th Arpil 2012 - the Eve of the Centenary of that fateful night.
Tom standing on stage in front of the Titanic Centenary Banner, in the Ball Room at Blacktown Workers Club on Friday 13th Arpil 2012 - the Eve of the Centenary of that fateful night.

Get up there and communicate

Welcome to Speaking Tips: In Storytelling you are the visual aid.

Once again it becomes clear that to entertain with a speech the main thing is simply to get up there and communicate. The voice, the facial expressions, the body language come naturally to the speaker as the words are uttered, and the ‘whole person’ up there on stage speaking is communicating to the ‘whole person’ – be it a dozen or a thousand – who make up the audience. The words and the movements of the speaker are, if we’re doing it right, not even consciously acknowledged by our listeners. They are caught up in the atmosphere, the radiated energies as the messages being passed are interpreted by their minds and channeled into their hearts.

Some of the audience at the Titanic event

We, as the speaker, are the focus

What I’m saying here is that we don’t need gimmicks. We don’t need flashing lights and pictures that move on screens in the background. We, as the speaker, are the focus of the audience and, if we’re doing it right, after that introduction when they size us up and approve of us as creditable in those first few critical ninety seconds or so, they start to listen. They pay real attention. In the listening, we should all but disappear as the audience begins to automatically formulate the pictures we are creating with our words in their minds.

Our words in their minds

I believe I was able to engender the forming of such pictures and to generate the emotions which sprang from them when I presented a recent talk: Titanic – a Night to Remember, before an audience of over a hundred and fifty people as I spoke of the birth, building, and the eventual tragedy of this greatest of all ships sinking on her maiden voyage.

Microphone in hand, Tom blasts on an imaginary foghorn of that great 46,000 ton liner

Imaginary dialogue, sound effects - all add to the visualization process.
Imaginary dialogue, sound effects - all add to the visualization process.

Success is the feeling in ones heart

How does one know this? Well, it is a combination of many things: the attention of the audience, no whispering, no fidgeting or moving around, silence. It comes from that period of silence when one utters ones final words and takes that a step back to signal completion. It comes from the enthusiasm of the applause. It comes from the smiling faces and the handshakes along with verbal feedback from many of those who were in the audience. But it comes most of all from a feeling in one’s own heart that it went well – really well. And this is a feeling hard to describe. This is what all speakers relish.

Another view of part of the audience - a wonderful evening

A big room for a big night.  Over 150 people, many wearing 1912 period costume, all this added to the atmosphere.
A big room for a big night. Over 150 people, many wearing 1912 period costume, all this added to the atmosphere.

Stories are much easier to bring pictures in the mind of the listener

Of course, Titanic – a Night to Remember was not so much a speech as a story. Stories are much easier to bring pictures into the mind of a listener; hence I exhort any who wish to present well to use stories wherever they can. Also, in the telling of them, to use the techniques which make stories easier to visualize. Keep away from the abstract: use the concrete expression, short, commonly understood words. Use dialogue between different people as if in conversation. In effect, at times, one is an actor playing several parts, and then a narrator moving the story along.

Another round of applause as Tom comes down from the stage

Allan Davies, MC, draws again the audience's attention to the man who told the story.
Allan Davies, MC, draws again the audience's attention to the man who told the story.

Keep to being what you are

Do not recourse to showing statistics on a screen, holing notes, trotting at a model, or picking up something to show the audience. That will break their flow of imaginings, the unfolding picture story in their minds. Keep to being what you are: the speaker, the presenter, the storyteller. Do this, and you will reach deeper into the hearts and minds of your audience than you can in any other way. And they will remember. They will remember the story you told them long after those statistics have faded into oblivion.

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Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York

Good article. Sometimes public speakers with a lot to offer, a lot to share, forget the visual impression they make, to the detriment of their speech.

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