Public Speaking has various forms and this is fairly common knowledge. It branches out into various types and Storytelling has always remained a prominent one among those.
This is mainly because of its captivating nature when done right (we’re here to help you with that!), it creates a connection with the audience which, so far, no other technique or type of Speech has been able to replicate.
Storytelling in Public Speaking is a method to express your point in an animated and engaging manner. It is most effective when delivered on an emotional topic or one that makes the audience think on the moral and bring out a new perspective.
Storytelling v. Public Speaking
Although Storytelling is essentially a part, you can even call it a type of Public Speaking, there are some significant differences between the two.
The most prominent difference is in Delivery, while Public Speaking – any type of speech requires ample amount of and strategically placed tone and voice modulation.
Storytelling takes it up a notch, because even though the goal might be the same, the message might be the same but Storytelling takes the audience on a journey and tries to make them relate and identify with the topic being spoken.
Public Speaking on the other hand, makes the audience face the music and is uses facts more than emotions.
One couldn’t be more wrong!
Storytelling may bring out the creative side in you, but to be able to draft and come up with killer pointers for a Motivational or any other speech requires just as much creativity!
Regarding facts and research: Only because the word Story is there in it doesn’t mean we can present only fictional data to the audience, your story has a moral and that moral connects it to the present, to the reality where hard facts exist!
Storytelling can be considered as both a type of Public Speaking and as a tool. It helps you get close to your audience. Some similarities between the two are listed below:
- Message / Moral that needs to be delivered.
- Voice Modulation and Visual aids play a huge role.
- Need for audience engagement and involvement.
Importance of Storytelling in Public Speaking
Who doesn’t love a good story?
So many of us have spent hours exploring and having adventures with books or movies, completely and utterly invested in the story. Watching the plot unravel and figuring out how each puzzle fits perfectly.
I know we aren’t going to be delivering a page turner, nor are we all great writers to be able to make up the amazing stories that we binge on an almost unhealthy level. (you would’ve done it too, don’t look at me like that.)
But what a well delivered and written story can do for you is limitless, here are a few of those awesome perks:
1. Audience Engagement
You saw this one coming, didn’t you?
Even though we have already hinted at it (basically everything but flashing it on the screen in big bright letters with a tacky font) I can’t help but stress on this point because more often than we’d like we have a dead audience and waking them up, engaging them and keeping them engaged is a mammoth of a task.
A story brings life to data, to random facts and to your speech. It gives you a chance to be creative and break away from the formal structure of a speech, which is a refreshing change to both you and an audience.
It is something we can bank on to have registered in your audience’s mind. Even if they aren’t giving you their complete attention, the way a story is required to be delivered creates an active environment with a LOT of potential for engagement.
2. Compensates for Visual Aids
Before scrolling down, read the story again and ignore the part where I try to be funny and fail. Try to visualise it as you read it.
Now look at this picture:
Is this what you imagined the pink house to look like? The odds are very slim. You definitely like your imaginary Pink House better, right?
Don’t feel like a snob because that is exactly my point!
You created an attachment to your Pink House simply because it was yours. No one else had the exact same Pink House as the one your created in your mind.
If you aren’t able to present your screen or show a presentation, a good story can help you compensate for the reduced stimulation.
Now this doesn’t mean that visual aids are bad, they are good and highly encouraged! Even when delivering a story! To have somethings to anchor your thoughts to is a great way to keep the audience’s attention on you!
3. Flow and Structure
What is a story if not a continuous series of events? An even better aspect of a story: Even if one action goes amiss, it won’t sound right and there goes the plot down the drain!
This isn’t to scare you, in fact it is a benefit! Once you know the crux of a story it is hard to forget and that helps you maintain proper structure in your speech.
If you’d like to explore structuring your speech a little further, check out our article: 3 Ways to Structure A Speech the Professional Way
With a proper structure comes a smooth flow because after all we all know that Cinderella lost her shoe after the Ball not before it!
Steps for an Effective Storytelling Experience
Now that we know how Storytelling is an important part of Public Speaking, let’s work on delivering it in the most captivating manner possible.
Often storytelling is assumed to be very technical and something only supremely creative minds can whip up. Lets prove them wrong because honestly, anyone can tell a story.
Step 1: Preparation
Preparing for a speech with a story in it or a storytelling speech is a very important step. It helps you build your base and work on the direction you want to follow. Lets look at it closely:
1. Personal or Fictional
The first and foremost thing you need to do before beginning work on your story is decide if it is going to be a personal story – something that has happened in real life with you, an anecdote of sorts, or a fictional story – something you’ve fabricated to drive your point home, it could also be an adaptation or an example of a story not written by you but you’ve taken inspiration from it or are quoting it, or it could even be a mixture of both, just to make it easier for the audience to grasp the concept or relate with it better.
Personal Story / Anecdote
Everything was going beautifully and I didn’t really care for the need for someone in my life, but when I met her, everything fit.
I met her on a walk around the lake, she was a stray but still healthy. She walked with me and in those moments I longed for companionship. Her companionship. She was friendly and smart. She happily came with me when I motioned for it once and that is what sealed the deal.
It isn’t everyday you come across a moment like this, it isn’t everyday you make an honest friend and know it immediately.
The companionship of a pet is something in my opinion we all should experience once in our life, for that is a bond pure enough to never break.
She came with the same look and air of a stray but there was something about her that pulled me to her. A strong willed bitch with impeccable manners and survival skills. We connected and we were happy.
Among the whole back and forth of learning tricks and playing fetch we grew old and lazy. Soon a day out in the park meant sitting on the grass and lazing around instead of running behind butterflies and panting till our bodies screamed for water.
It brings a smile to your face doesn’t it?
That is what a companion does. Pets become your family, they are there with you come rain or fall. A smile on their face and the shine in their eyes. The bond you share with them is so pure that you emote on a different level with each other and that is an experience worth a lifetime.
Remember to always give credit where it is due.
It doesn’t matter to the audience if your story is an original or not (unless the guidelines specifically ask for an original) as long as you give credit where it is due and be honest about your work, everything will work itself out.
2. Character and Plot
First things first, when I say plot – it doesn’t necessarily translate to suspense. As much as building suspense is good, holding your audience’s attention and making them care about what you are speaking is better.
There are two ways to make them care about your story: 1. Character and 2. Plot.
This one may seem difficult but getting a crowd to care about one imaginary being (at least to them it is as they most likely do not know all the characters in the story) is fairly easy. How? Well humans are collective beings. We like to be in packs and I am guessing that is why we bond so strongly with Canines because after all they are pack animals as well.
This makes it easy for the audience to connect with the humans and other human like characters (in terms of displaying emotions) in the story, empathise with them and understand their emotions. As long as you have a character who brings out the basic human emotions and explores them further in any manner you like you’ve got an audience that is connected to your character. This doesn’t guarantee that they care about your story thought.
If you would like to explore more about Character Development in a fictional genre then you can check out this article.
With regard to Personal Stories / Anecdotes, we are at an advantage as they are existing humans and it is easier to build on their existing personalities and traits.
When it comes to a Plot of a story, I feel the easiest way to work on it is:
1. Think of the Character:
When we think of a Character, we don’t necessarily have to define each and every trait or characteristic of theirs, we simply need to show a basic character which grows and develops as the plot / story line moves forward.
2. Find out what they want:
Once we find out what they want or basically the ending of your story, it helps set a direction for us. We know where we are going and now we can steer the story from anywhere back to that ending.
It is up to you to decide if you want to announce the ending before hand or let the audience figure out as the story moves on.
3. Figure out ways to stop them from getting it:
By creating obstacles you bring out the human traits of the Characters. You make the audience connect with them as at the end of the day, they are struggling too. It also helps with making the story engaging and gets the audience invested in your protagonist’s journey.
It also gives you ample time to develop your character with the traits you want to highlight and maybe instil in your audience.
3. Outline and Moral
Remember earlier in the article we spoke about how a Story benefits us by having a continuous flow? Lets explore that point a little more:
With an Outline the story becomes similar to a frame by frame play of a video. Each step is followed by another.
Take the case of the two examples given above. They have an outline which shows the progress of the story.
It could be:
Meeting the Pet – Falling in love with it – Building a Relationship – Talking about their experience and bond – Moral.
Morals are something we are all familiar with. You give a speech with a purpose and that purpose becomes your moral.
Step 2: Positioning
By Positioning I don’t mean how you stand, that we’ll come to later. First, let’s figure out where to place your Story in your speech.
With regards to Positioning there can be two cases:
1. The Story is a part of your speech.
When your story is only a part of your speech, you need to be careful about positioning it at the right place.
How do you analyse and find the right spot?
1. By Length
If your story isn’t very long, and would barely cover one to two minutes of your speech, it might be ideal to place it in the beginning or the middle of the speech. By the end of your speech, the audience is expected to zone out and it would be better to have a longer story at the end just to give them time to come back to you and then you can do justice to the killer conclusion you have written!
2. By Type
What does your story talk about? Does it scratch the surface of your topic or does it go deep into your topic turn out be very profound and analytical? Try to find a segment in your speech which syncs the best with your story and work on incorporating the story with the content you have already prepared.
2. The Story is your speech.
When you are giving a Storytelling speech, it is easier to find a flow and stick to it.
There is one trick you can explore and try out:
In your story, to make the audience a part of the story, you could address them with rhetorical questions from time to time to help drive your point or highlight a particular emotion / situation.
If you are giving a presentation and would like to figure out how to incorporate Storytelling into that (trust me, it isn’t weird! It is cool and actually more common that you’d think) you can check out this video we’ve curated:
Step 3: Delivery
Every well written speech needs to be delivered as efficiently. Don’t we call curse the makers of a movie when the essence of a book isn’t captured in its movie adaptation?
When you have a short story within your speech, a simple conversational tone would be enough of a welcome change. It changes your tone and yet doesn’t draw too much focus on your story as there are other important points to be covered.
But on the other hand, when you Speech is a Story, you delivery is what turns it from words to a story. (Tried to be dramatic, let’s try that for your delivery now!)
1. Voice Modulation
Monotonous tunes and sounds tend to make us drowsy no matter if the topic is about rocket science or the latest gossip about your recent ship. Changing your voice according to what you feel or what you want the audience to feel about that particular event in your story will go a long way.
Imagine if Hermione (from Harry Potter) said her famous line – “Now, if you two don’t mind, I’m going to bed before either of you come up with another clever idea to get us killed or worse… expelled.” in the way she did, how insignificant would it have been?
This one line highlighted how important Hogwarts was to her, even as an 11 year old in a scary new world!
2. Body Language
As much as your voice can influence emotions, if your face and body don’t show it, there is a serious possibility that the emotion won’t register or connect with your audience. While I’d love to get on a video chat with all of you and help you work on your body language, it would be better to visually understand it.
[Remember how I stressed about the importance of visual aids? Here is a live example! :)]
3. Stage Usage
Let’s say that you are doing everything right and yet, the audience seems distracted. One possible explanation would be that you are stagnant and in being so, for the audience, you may not have blended into the background but you have become a part of it.
Moving around when you are narrating a story is effective, but you need to gauge when to do it.
An easy hack to this is: Speak-Stay, Transition-Transportation. It essentially means that when you are speaking or delivering an important point or an talking about an important event in your story, stay in one place, the only thing the audience should need to focus on is your content, but when you move from one scene / situation to another, you move, it shows the audience that they are moving on with you and helps smoothen your transitions.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, there might be situations where you can not move, less stage area, the mic is attached to the podium, it is an online platform or physical limitations. Do not fret. It is okay and you can use your voice by changing tones or effect transitions instead or you can come up with your own creative technique!
How to Open / Close a Storytelling Speech
Opening your Speech
The quickest way to grab your audience’s attention would be to get right into the story. The Emcee would have introduced you and everyone is waiting for someone to start speaking.
You can either begin with a mellow start and a strong voice to grab your audience’s attention, or begin in the heat of the moment / middle of an action.
This helps interrupt their train of thought and shifts their focus to you.
Closing your Speech
Closing your speech with a moral is really effective. Here is were you can get creative and have a little fun!
You can choose to either directly give out the moral, or frame it in a way to let the audience keep guessing and make their own assumptions. This can be done based on your audience.
If you have a young audience which may not be able to interpret complex emotions, you can give out the moral directly and expand a little on it by citing examples from the story.
If you trust your audience’s comprehension skills you can either end with a question, an incomplete sentence, a thought, the options are limitless!
To learn more about how to approach Storytelling, you can check out our article: 9 Storytelling Approaches For Your Next Speech or Presentation.
Warning: The video has one graphic image. Viewer discretion is advised.
This story of Richard and his invention is not only heart warming but easy to follow.
This is a great story which builds from his introduction, and ends with his future plans and all the while, the theme and hero of the speech being his invention.
A perfect example of how to use visual aids. There weren’t too many slides nor there were too little. Each segment had a slide and they in themselves told the story.
His use of humour is very subtle yet effective. It is perfectly worked into the story and is something everyone can relate with.
Warning: Discussion about Domestic Abuse. Viewer discretion is advised.
This is a beautiful example of building suspense and keeping the audience engaged.
She starts her story with a question and the audience listens on, partially because they are looking for the answer and partially because she has grasped their attention not my any flare or show of the dramatics but simply by her content and delivery of it.
Even though the topic is extremely serious she manages to build humour which is perfectly times to make the atmosphere not too sombre but serious enough that her abuse isn’t taken lightly.
Final Tips and Tricks!
You’ve got a killer story all locked and loaded, what is the one most important thing that is left?
One thing that no matter which level of a Public Speaker you are, no matter what type of speech you are giving, you have to do it.
I cannot stress on this enough! Especially for a story! Saying it again and again, helps you get the hang of all the areas where you need to speak fast or slow down or be loud or speak softer. All these little things add up to a great delivery and speech.
Another thing you can do is get a fresh pair of ears to listen your story. They can help you find all the little cracks and fill them up well before your delivery.
Understand that a little bit of nervousness is good. It keeps you on your toes. What you can do is work on yourself, hydrate, practice and know your material. Excitement and interest is contagious, use the above tools as a catalyst and you will get a positive reaction. Good luck!