Storytelling and Public Speaking - Pictures in the Mind

Macquarie Island November 1976

We were on Macquarie for a year but, naturally enough, took photos of ourselves shortly after arrival.   This one is me standing next to an old abandoned sealers windlass
We were on Macquarie for a year but, naturally enough, took photos of ourselves shortly after arrival. This one is me standing next to an old abandoned sealers windlass

Storytelling and Public Speaking for Non-Toastmaster Audiences

Syd Field was regarded as the Dion of script writing for movies. He was a Hollywood legend and his book, Screen Play – The Foundations of Screen Writing is a masterpiece on how to write a really good film script. In the introduction of this book, Syd writes, “A screenplay, I soon realized, is a story told in pictures.” Oral storytelling is also like that, except that the pictures are not shown on a screen in a cinema. They’re seen on the screens of the audience’s mind.

In oral storytelling the audiences takes a more active part

Action seen on the ‘silver screen’ is largely a passive occurrence. The audience views the pictures and listens to the dialogue and sometimes, to a lesser extent, the narration of a voice describing what is happening. In oral storytelling the audience takes a more active part, their minds evoke the pictures they see, albeit fairly clearly or not so clearly, by the words put to them by the storyteller.

Looking around my new island home

Just one part of the rugged coastline.   The seas regularly scour away huge chunks of earth from the island's coasts
Just one part of the rugged coastline. The seas regularly scour away huge chunks of earth from the island's coasts

The speaker is simply the means by which the story or message is imparted

There is quite a bit of similarity between a storyteller and a public speaker presenting a speech. In both, the story or speech is the thing; the presenter is simply the means by which the story or message is imparted. The good presenter of either of these genre should, if they’re doing their job right, be hardly noticed. They disappear, so to speak, and the minds of the audience are moved by what is being conveyed. The body language and eye contact of the storyteller or speaker, the pitch, pace, pause, the vocal variety and nuances of meaning are noticed, but noticed by a part of the recipient as non-intrusive. If the storyteller or public speaker is doing it right there will be little or no conscious evaluation of how it is being presented. The audience will be lost in the content of what is being portrayed.

Toastmasters are taught to consciously evaluate - and therein lies the problem

This is one of the reasons why speaking to an audience of Toastmasters is so different from speaking to most other groups. Toastmasters are taught to evaluate. They are taught to notice. There is emphasis placed on the impact of the introduction, the use of points and summaries thoughout, and, of course, the conclusion or wind up. Add to this, Toastmaster members’ attention to body language, use of the stage, eye contact, the pregnant pause and the like, and it is not difficultl to realize that many a good presentation is lost to the audience. They have become primarily concerned with evaluating performance. Simply listening for enjoyment has flown out the window.

My place of work - the radio room towards the right

Radio scheds and radfone calls to and from  Australia, a 'Chess sched with Campbell Island and contact by CW (Morse Code) to the supply ships made up the bulk of our telecommunicaitons work.
Radio scheds and radfone calls to and from Australia, a 'Chess sched with Campbell Island and contact by CW (Morse Code) to the supply ships made up the bulk of our telecommunicaitons work.

The non-Toastmaster audience either likes you or it does not

A non-Toastmaster audience is a far easier to present to than a group of Toastmasters. This is especially so at Toastmasters’ bigger meetings such as Divisional or District events. It is less intimidating. Comparisons with how you usually are and how you are this time are not being made. The non-Toastmaster audience either likes what you’re doing or it does not. It approves or it does not. If it approves you get full attention all the way through you presentation. If it does not, people will chat to one another, fall asleep or even leave the room. No one is consciously concerning themselves with evaluations. There is no one going to come up with Praise, Recommend, and Praise. The MC might remark on how much the audience enjoyed your presentation, even remark that you “held them spellbound.” But if you did, it will be genuine praise; no soapsuds and worries about the PRP so you’re feelings aren’t hurt.

Me bringing up the remote-located 1,000 kilomwatt Racal Transmitter

We had a number of transmitters: two were 1,000 kilowatt jobs for long distance communicaiton with Australia, and the remainder low powered at around 50 watts.
We had a number of transmitters: two were 1,000 kilowatt jobs for long distance communicaiton with Australia, and the remainder low powered at around 50 watts.

If you think you're good enough - get out there and speak!

My advice has long been to Toastmasters, who have reached a level of expertise where they think they’re good enough to go to audiences outside of Toastmasters, to do just that. Get outside and speak! Work out what is required by way of the speeches that are acceptable to outside audiences. Mostly, they like to be entertained. This includes not only subject matter but length of time. Five to seven minute or even twelve to fourteen minute speeches are, as a general rule, not long enough for your outside audience. So work on a thirty, forty or even fifty minute presentation. Then find your audiences – deliberately put in plural because you’ll present that presentation more than once – and get out there and speak!

Your truly up on the plateau - the beard's getting longer

Most of Macquarie Island is 'high country' at an average height of 1,000 feet.  There are few habitable low-lying areas, the Isthmus of the base camp being the biggest.
Most of Macquarie Island is 'high country' at an average height of 1,000 feet. There are few habitable low-lying areas, the Isthmus of the base camp being the biggest.

Nothing succeeds like success

In all likelihood you will succeed and, as it has been said many times, ‘Nothing succeeds like success.’ Before you know it you’ll be speaking to many different types of audiences, putting together new presentations, growing and enjoying a newfound confidence in speaking. So why not do it? Nothing is holding you back. Go for it!

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Comments 2 comments

Pennypines profile image

Pennypines 3 years ago from Mariposa, California, U.S.A.

Iused to be considered a good speaker who could hold an audience but with advancing age, I find myself increasingly asking others to tell my story for me. Most of them are good, some disappointing. However with a few touches of humor in the stories I find on average the audience is appreciative.

I do love to tell stories, and enjoy having them read.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

Interesting look at how toastmasters have to speak, in a sense I do understand what you mean. A few years ago I belonged to a writing group, there were about 20 of us and each week we would have to stand up and read out our story that we had written over the last few days, the one thing that we always were told over and over again was to 'not gallop' along with the story. Taking a deep breath and speaking slowly enhancing certain words but not shouting etc was the thing to do, I remember it well and still do as I was told if I read out loud now, really useful hub for toastmasters and public speakers, nell

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