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Public Speaking Tips - How to tell stories well

Updated on September 24, 2014

The writer addressing an audience; people love a good story

Everyone loves a good story. Tom has told his stories to over 47,000 people.   In the 1980s it was 6,000,  But on retirement in 1995 Tom really stepped it up was, for a few years, giving over sixty presentations a year.  Yes!  The demand is there!
Everyone loves a good story. Tom has told his stories to over 47,000 people. In the 1980s it was 6,000, But on retirement in 1995 Tom really stepped it up was, for a few years, giving over sixty presentations a year. Yes! The demand is there!

Tell a tale...spin a yarn...people love it!

In a number of my earlier essays I emphasized the importance of being able to tell a story well. Also, I’ve mentioned how a story is apt to not only be remembered but to have a much greater impact on an audience than simply presenting a lot of factual information. When we tell a tale, spin a yarn, it has an emotional impact far great than any statistical data or strictly factual content. However, facts linked to a tale will make that information far more memorable.

Become an entertaining public speaker, a raconteur

Some speakers will, of course, wish to use a story to make a point. Others will tell a story just for the sake of the story in itself. I do a lot of the latter. As an entertaining speaker or raconteur I tell stories to audiences so that they will enjoy the story for itself rather than to make a ‘sale’ of some sort. If my stories are persuasive, then that persuasion is very subtle.

An audience of 150 Probians listening one of Tom's longer stories

Don't think it's half-a-dozen sitting around a camp fire.  Good, dramatic and humourous storytelling can draw huge audiences.
Don't think it's half-a-dozen sitting around a camp fire. Good, dramatic and humourous storytelling can draw huge audiences.

Many of my presentations are straight out storytelling

Many of my stories are short, others are very long. For example, I have at least four tales which go for around forty-five minutes. That is, just one story alone will take up my whole allocated time as the guest speaker. Such yarns are not of the type used by professional public speakers to sell something, be it idea, service or product. They are straight out storytelling. If you’d like to find out a little more about the way I introduce a long story to an audience, it might be worth checking out the link at the end of this Hub. Or, you could go could visit http://youtube.com/tomwarespeaking. This will take you immediately to the introduction to two of my stories.

Nother sticks in our mind like a story

A few days ago I overheard a man referring to a speech he’d heard a few weeks earlier. “I can’t remember anything of the actual speech - but I can recall the story.” It’s a remark that only reinforces what I have known for years: apart from a personal experience – nothing sticks in our minds more than a story. There is something almost tangible when a serious of visuals images arises in our minds at the prompting of an oral storyteller. Imaginary visual images stay with us long after facts and figures and even appeals to our emotions have faded into oblivion.

I don't remember your name but I remember that story

For example, in the 1980s I presented a particular story to a ladies group. Twenty years later I was on the telephone to this same woman – who I had long ago forgotten – who was, once again, seeking a speaker, this time for a Probus Club she belonged to. She didn’t remember my name either. But after a few minutes on the phone it became clear to this lady, now quite elderly, that she had heard me speak before. “Oh, you’re the man who told us that story about the seals and things on Macquarie Island. I remember that story.”

“I remember that story.” And so we do.

One of the 800 plus audiences the speaker has addressed

Here we have an all male Probus Club meeting in the premises of a Golf Club.
Here we have an all male Probus Club meeting in the premises of a Golf Club.

Seventy years on I still remember that story

In another example which goes back even further in time, in the 1990’s I was asked to present a Christmas Story to a Toastmaster Club. I thought, “Well, I don’t think I know any….wait a minute!” And it came flooding back to me after half a century. “The Fourth King.” It was a great Christmas story, and I’d only heard it once before. It was told to me when I was a little boy in Primary School in London, England around 1946. Fifty years had gone by and I still remembered it! That is the power of story.

After a good lunch comes the entertainment; another Probus Club

The is a continuous demand for good, entertaining, after dinner speakers.
The is a continuous demand for good, entertaining, after dinner speakers.

So to be remember tell at least one reasonably lengthy story

So for the public speaker who truly wants his or her presentation to be remembered, put in a least one really interesting and reasonably lengthy story; something that can be visualized in the mind of your audience and, chances are, your story too will be remembered long, long afterwards. What better recommendation can a speaker get?

Yes, tell a tale, spin a yarn, because everyone loves a good story

How to tell stories is not something that can be done in a short Hub such as this. There is a lot in it. Indeed, I have written a book on the subject: The Raconteur – Speaking to Entertain. However, I hope that this will lead you towards taking an interest in what is probably the oldest of all forms of entertainment – the story.

An ideal audience; sitting close together theatre style and filling the room

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