Engage your Audience with the Power of a Story

power of storyWhether your goal is to motivate, inspire, educate or inform, you want your audience to remember your message.  They may not remember every point and salient detail, but you want them to connect with what you said–not what you wore!

One way to fully engage your audience is to weave powerful stories into your presentation. Stories help you keep your audience’s attention, while providing powerful images that will endure beyond your closing words.

For example, in the 2013 Inaugural Prayer Service, Rev. Adam Hamilton concluded with a memorable story about Robert Louis Stevenson as a child.  In the story, Stevenson was fascinated by the lamplighter outside his window, setting up his ladder, climbing the ladder, and lighting the streetlights.  When asked what he was watching, Stevenson replied that he was watching a man “poke holes in the darkness.”  Rev. Hamilton utilized this image to suggest that our calling as Americans was to “poke holes in the darkness” of poverty, inequality, and injustice.

Here are some tips to weave stories into your presentation making your message more memorable.

First, if you are choosing a story from history, be sure that you have correct, historically accurate details. With a room full of internet-connected devices, someone will find the error before you’ve left the podium! Be sure you don’t pass off someone else’s story as your own.  You can always give a quick citation, or begin the story simply by saying, “I once heard…” or “The story has been told…”

While you may wish to avoid a story that is cliché or overused, don’t be afraid of using a well-known story in an unexpected way. Use the story to highlight the anticipated lesson or focus on an element of the story that is often overlooked.

Lastly, many of the best stories are the ones that come from your own life and experience.  Consider keeping a journal of the lessons that you learn in life, so you can recount the details later.  Be sure to include sights, sounds, smells and emotions so you can fully engage your listeners.

Remember your goal – to inspire, motivate and educate. Make sure whatever tactics you use clearly communicates the message you want to impart.

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