Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

“Once upon a time…” Use stories to your advantage with the help of these tips! [Wednesdays: “Speak on the Shoulders of Giants”]

January 20, 2021

Everyone has a story to tell.

From the moment we wake up to the moment we sleep, our days are filled with amazing stories and wonderful experiences that we can share with others.

These moments are instant generators of interest, empathy, emotion, and intrigue.

When used properly in public speaking, these stories can help you create great presentations that will leave a lasting impression on your audience.

“People are born to love stories.”

This is what Chris Anderson stated in his book titled, “TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking.”

When used in speeches or presentations, these stories can help establish the context of a talk and make an audience focus on a certain topic or point.

In 2012, Italian author and public speaker Ernesto Sirolli wanted to deliver a presentation about a better approach to development aid in Africa. He knew it was a tough subject to talk about, so he thought it would be better to connect with his audience first

What better way to do that than to tell a story?

Here’s what he said in the first few minutes of his presentation:

    “Our first project was when we, Italians, decided to teach Zambian people how to grow food. We arrived there with Italian seeds in Southern Zambia, in this absolutely magnificent valley going down to the Zambezi River, and we taught the local people how to grow Italian tomatoes and zucchini.

    Of course, the local people had absolutely no interest in doing that. We were amazed that the local people, in such a fertile valley, would not have any agriculture.

    Instead of asking them how come they were not growing anything, we simply said, ‘Thank God we’re here. Just in the nick of time to save the Zambian people from starvation.’

    Then, everything in Africa grew beautifully. We had these magnificent tomatoes and we couldn’t believe it! We were telling the Zambians, ‘Look how easy agriculture is.’

    When the tomatoes were nice and ripe and red, overnight, some 200 hippos came out from the river and they ate everything. We said to the Zambians, ‘My God, the hippos!’ and the Zambians said, ‘Yes, that’s why we have no agriculture here.’”

Did you also find Sirolli’s story funny and interesting?

You could probably imagine Sirolli and his team, eyes wide open and almost speechless because of the event they just witnessed.

That anecdote got his audience laughing and from that point, they were focusing on his presentation.

Just like Sirolli, when you can combine humor, self-deprecation, and insight into a single story, you have a winning start!

Don’t think that these kinds of stories can only be used as a power opener. You can also tell stories in the middle of your talk to illustrate a point or even as a power closer.

Now that you know how stories can add context to your topic and help you connect with your audience, what can you do to effectively tailor it to your presentation?

  1. Evoke in the minds of your audience.

    When you tell a story, aim to create an image or stimulate the senses in some way.

    Keep in mind that when your audience can’t visualize or relate to your story, it just won’t work. “Paint” a picture of the situation you’re talking about through words!

    Take a look at these 2 sentences:

    Sentence 1: “He was very angry.”
    Sentence 2: “He stormed out, slammed the door, and kicked the chair outside.”

    Between the two, the second sentence paints a clearer picture of the man and what he was feeling. Even if you’re just telling your audience that, they can still visualize those action words based on their experiences when someone is angry.

  2. Don’t just give a talk. Create an experience!

    There’s a difference between simply “giving a talk” and “providing an experience.” While all speakers can deliver a decent presentation, not all of them can create a memorable experience for their audience.

    Remember: It’s not just what you say, but how you say the words. The way you share your story is an important key.

    Using the appropriate gesture and voice tone can help communicate your message. You might also want to use metaphors or other sensory languages where necessary so your audience can maximize their experience.

    According to Australian professional speaker and public speaking coach, Lisa Evans:

    “If content is king, then delivery is queen. Work on both to be the best storyteller you can be.”

  3. Begin with the end in mind.

    Every presentation has a purpose.

    You don’t just tell a story for the sake of filling or lengthening your talk. It should have an end point that is beneficial for your audience.

    Ask yourself: “What is it that I want my audience to learn from this story?”

    When you have an answer to that question, work your way towards it through your presentation.

Build a place where your audience can connect with you using meaningful stories!

According to Chris Anderson, tales about failure, awkwardness, misfortune, disaster, getting back stronger, and learning from one’s mistakes are good generators of engagement and connection.

However, be careful in choosing a story to share, as some can come off as boastful or emotionally manipulative. When this happens, you might make your audience more uncomfortable and you risk genuinely connecting with them.

Stories are precious. When used properly, it can make a huge impact in the effectiveness of your presentation.

Take note of these tips as you prepare for your next public speaking engagement!

Remember that you’re human and your listeners are also human. Your lives are connected by similar experiences.

When you share stories, you’re not just transferring words to your audience. You’re also sharing life, meaning, lessons, and insights with them.

About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Wednesdays: Speak on the Shoulders of Giants”

In a meeting with one person

…a boardroom with five people

…or a huge venue with hundreds of people

—whatever the situation or setting, it’s very important to learn and eventually master the art of public speaking.

No matter what, you always need to effectively get your message across.

What good is a presentation with awesome content if you don’t deliver it properly?

Every Wednesday, we publish different tips, insights, and secrets on how you can improve your presentation skills to captivate your audience and lead interesting discussions.

The need for great presentation skills applies EVERYWHERE.

(Small meetings with your team, big meetings with your boss, an important marketing pitch, speaking engagements for events with a big audience, etc.)

Learning these skills is not just for the corporate world. Being in other industries such as the Arts, Information Technology, Medicine, and Education while knowing how to present well will definitely give you an edge.

Have that advantage.

Hope you’ve found this week’s public speaking tip interesting and helpful.

Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s Speak on the Shoulders of Giants!


Kyle Yu
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
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