How to Use a Story to Engage Your Audience

Preparing your speech and writing appropriate stories can be a challenge at the best of times, but the real challenge is in using and writing those stories in such a way that they really engage your audience.

First, think about how other speakers and presenters manage to grab your attention. Sure, their stories about themselves may be amusing but as with anybody who is all about “me me me”, you can find your concentration drifting. What really grabs your attention, and keeps it, is when the presenter talks about things that relate to you… so it’s more “you you you” than “me me me”.

A successful storyteller engages their audience by telling stories that elicit responses like, “Wow, that’s happened to me, too!”, and “Yeah, I’ve seen that happen!”, and feelings of sympathy and empathy because for whatever reason, they can identify with your story. You may be telling a story about yourself, but in their minds it is about them and everyone is interested in themselves, right?

The secret to connecting with your audience is by bonding with them on an honest level. Honesty can be funny or it can be sad, but everyone can relate to the human condition. At some stage of our lives we have all experienced something similar that made us laugh or cry or just want to go hide under a rock. So don’t just talk at your audience – talk to them in an honest way.

When you are preparing a story, relate it to your intended audience. A popular presentation these days, as in most economies, is addressing small business owners who are struggling to reach success. So think back to a time when you were struggling, but through sheer determination and perseverance you managed to hang in there and come through relatively unscathed. So what was it you did, exactly, that helped you through your trying times? It’s one thing to say to your audience, “think positively” – but put yourself in their shoes, listening to this advice. These are empty words unless you can demonstrate their effectiveness. Just HOW does one think positively and use that advice day to day? How did you do it? Did you catch yourself with each negative thought and say “cancel, cancel” and replace it with a positive one? If you became too downhearted, did you take yourself off to the gym to sweat it out? Did you watch a funny movie to lighten your mood? Did you visit a homeless shelter and volunteer? What was it you did?

Think about all the emotions and experiences you had that your audience has likewise experienced and spin the story to relate to them. You’ll want to explain your own feelings during your own time of difficulty so they can identify with them, and once you have them on side, then you teach them how to keep going when the going is tough, because then they will know you have been in their shoes and if you succeeded, maybe they can too if they listen to you.

Don’t turn your talk into a glorified lecture, preaching to the audience about how clever you are. There are a lot of ‘guru’s out there who like to tell their audience how successful and wealthy they are and became that way despite difficult economies, near bankruptcies, etc. and this information is not only taken with a pinch of salt by some, but is totally unhelpful to them. How does knowing that you are so filthy rich and successful that they should be grateful you spared the time to come talk to them help them? They didn’t come to hear how clever you think you are or how rich and successful you are now. They came to hear you talk about your similar problems and learn new ways of managing their own challenges. Of course, at some stage you will want to tell them that you came through struggles and became successful, but talk about it in a way that is tasteful – don’t brag – show your humility. You are offering them hope, not a look into the life of Mr or Mrs Clever Pants and if they buy X or do X or hire you, they will be as clever. Audiences are becoming savvier. Maybe they really will be doing themselves a favor if they buy X or hire you, but the secret is to let them come to this realization and make it easy for them to find your products or reach you.

You are talking about grave matters that weigh people down – they were already weighed down when they signed up for your talk… are you going to send them home as heavy as when they arrived? Will that make you a memorable speaker? The trick is to share your wisdom but in an entertaining manner. If you entertain your audience, you will have their undivided attention. I’m not suggesting you turn all your speeches into comedy routines because that has its time and place, but what I am suggesting is you mingle your sad stories with some humorous stories. Get your audience to laugh – share an embarrassing moment – people love to laugh at others! Some of the best laughs have come from stories where pain was mingled with humor. An oft used example of this is when talking about a much loved deceased friend or family member… one minute you’ll be teary eyed and the next laughing your head off. Life is like that. It is okay to find humor in grave situations, provided it doesn’t hurt or insult your audience. It must be tasteful.

Don’t just throw your stories into the speech willy-nilly. A great talk is like a book – it has a beginning, a middle and an ending. You must start by grabbing their attention right from the start, getting them to identify with you and wanting to hear more. This is where great stories come into play. Regardless of how much more successful and rich you may be than your audience, you want them thinking that you are one of them, not some smarty pants come to preach at them. Here is where you need to establish rapport with your audience.

How do you want your audience to react by the end of your talk? Crying? Laughing? Deep in thought? Primed for action and raring to go? The end of your talk must make a powerful impact on them. You don’t want to look like you are deliberately trying to get a laugh or tears out of them… it should come naturally. This is where you save your best story for last… the most powerful story… the one that will elicit the required response. This is where you must allow yourself to be vulnerable, to remind them you are one of them and to enable them to feel a rapport with you and your message. Your final story may be the one they most remember, so make it count. If you are hoping for donations, appeal to their better natures; if you want support for a special cause, pull at their heartstrings; if you want them to lighten up and think positively, leave them laughing and feeling good about themselves and hopeful for the future…

Make sure you rehearse – tape yourself or video yourself to ensure you are achieving your speaking goal. Is your humorous anecdote as funny when you say it as it looks on paper? How best to deliver it then? How are your facial expressions and mannerisms? Do your words say one thing but your face says another? Look for areas of improvement and practice… because practice makes perfect.

Peter “The Reinvention Guy” Fogel is a humorist, speaker, seminar leader and proud member of the National Speakers Association has appeared on over 22 television shows. He delivers presentations on humor, reinvention, copywriting and marketing to corporation and associations across America and parts of Jersey. As an information marketer he is also the creator of Peter Fogel’s Guide to Effective Public Speaking. For more information on his products, or to sign up for his FREE 7 Days to Effective Public Speaking E-course, go to

This week’s quotation relates to talking

Talking is like playing on the harp; there is as much in laying the hands on the strings to stop their vibration as in twanging them to bring out their music. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

How to Become a Sought-After Corporate Spokesperson

As speakers, trainers, and consultants, you may come across spokesperson opportunities many times a year but fail to recognize them. They slip away — perhaps going to someone else who’s more astute about picking up the cues. Don’t let the next lucrative possibility pass you by.

The session is rich with specific examples of what has worked and techniques to avoid. This is not about cold calling PR firms, but rather how to precisely position yourself so the client feels you “get it” and can’t live without you.

You will learn how to:

. capitalize on the opportunities by understanding what your role is and what you can do to close the deal
. articulate your established market and who else (what organization) needs to reach them
expand way beyond the obvious
. bridge the gap from the client’s brand to how your ideas, products or core messages solves a problem for their market
. package your idea and make adapting your concepts easy for the client to understand and buy

The information is here =>

New iPad app useful for speakers

iPad app Prompster is all-in-one speechwriter, recorder & teleprompter

Teleprompters were once the province of conventions and television studios. I’ve told you about open-source software that will put a teleprompter on your desktop or laptop. Now, iPad owners can take the teleprompter with them with new app Prompster

more =>

Don’t leave the impact of your presentation to chance

Whatever you may be trying to achieve, don’t let the impact of your presentation be an accident. Right from
the beginning, it needs to be part of the planning.

When you are visualizing your production, toying with ideas and possibilities and first drafts, make the impact of you as a person and of your performance an integral part of that process. Visualise it and work it into all aspects of your production planning.

Then you have the foundation for creating the “wow” factor.

The Interactive Approach to Doing a Presentation

Even if you are already an engaging presenter, add more audience participation. It will help the people you’re talking to remember more of your content.

Here are some ways to add variety and help people remember the important points that you are trying to make. They are especially effective in a learning or problem-solving situation

Thought for Thursday

“Nothing is worth more than this day.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Learn from the Top Presentation Experts in the World

From Ellen Finkelstein
(in case you’ve been living under a rock and missed it!!)

This has got to be good!!

Would you like to ask questions and get answers from top presentation, PowerPoint, and speaking experts?

Join my new Outstanding Presentations Workshop webinars, for free! Learn how to eliminate Death by PowerPoint and make your presentations come to life as you listen to guest experts share their best techniques and answer your questions!

Get all the details here =>

Inspirational Speeches Are About Being Better

Inspirational speeches inspire an audience to be something different. A motivational one on the other hand motivates them to do. The two can sometimes become one. A general might, for instance, in one speech inspire his troops to love their country and motivate them to fight for it.

So inspirational speeches reach into the souls of people and convince them that they can be braver or more brilliant. It might inspire people to help with the homeless or the victims of an earthquake. Inspirational speeches inspire people to be better citizens or fuller human beings.

The opening of such a speech is critical. You have to grab the attention of your audience in a way that they won’t become distracted. You will want them to hang on to every word you say. So it is good to challenge them in some way at the beginning by telling them perhaps to Make more of what you have. Then you can list the qualities they might already have such as kindness, musical alibility, generosity or an organizational bent. Your speech can continue by telling them to enhance those qualities by consciously using them to help others.

It is good to give examples in an inspirational speech. The fundraiser might speak of what Mother Theresa of Calcutta could achieve in her lifetime. He or she might speak of the legacy she has left behind, of how the other nuns in her order are carrying out her work of caring for the destitute and dying. Alternatively the speaker might speak of how an entrepreneur began his or her now multi -million dollar business in the shed at the back of his/her home.

An inspirational speech convinces the audience that they have something special to offer. It inspires them to achieve more in their lives. You might say, for instance, about luck- you can make your own. You might give the example of the person who wins lots of radio quizzes. He might be the one who always has a postcard ready, stamped and addressed to the show so his will be the first right answer sent in. He might have his computer beside him to check answers to a phone in quiz. Like the Boy Scouts he is always prepared.

Inspirational speeches are more often about changing our selves in a way that makes us help others. One of the clearest messages that comes through in many inspirational speeches is that together we can make things happen.

Niamh Crowe
Copyright Speechwriters 1994-2007
Tel. +353 1 8333599

Niamh Crowe is the CEO of the web’s leading speech site ( ) according to and Online since 1994, her site has thousands of speeches for every event and occasion including birthdays, weddings, graduations etc. She lives in Ireland where she is married to Fred. They have 5 children.

Speech quotation for the week

~ Advertising is speech. It’s regulated because it’s often effective speech. ~
Jef I. Richards