Working recently with a group of doctors, I emphasized how important it was to plan a strong start for their presentations – perhaps with an interesting anecdote about why they practice in the specialty area they all shared. Each got up and gave it a try. The first four each did just a bit better than the doctor before them. Then when the next doctor got up he started with these words: “When I was on the Super Bowl winning Green Bay Packers in the 1990’s I learned the importance of being on a team. Now I make sure I team with my patients.” That got the attention of the room alright – and the best part? It was true!
What, you don’t have a Super Bowl ring like this guy? No tale of bravery from the battlefield? Haven’t led a Fortune 100 company? Have no fear my friend, because this Monthly Memo will focus on telling a good story, no matter your situation!
Not a hero? Not a worry! Few of us have a story like this doctor and that’s okay because we probably can talk about something everyone in the room can connect with easily. Are you afraid to stand up in front of an audience? Had an embarrassing moment recently? Struggled with a subject in school? Never fit in during gym class? Whatever it is, we can probably tell a story on ourselves which plenty of people in the audience can connect with. And you get credit for not taking yourself too seriously. There are two rules to keep in mind as you search for a story: can it be connected with your topic and can it be shared without raising other issues? Run your thoughts by a trusted friend or advisor before you launch into story mode before the Board of Directors.
Borrow a Story: I didn’t have a story to start this Monthly Memo, so I borrowed the doctor’s to make my point. (Having grown up in Wisconsin I truly wish I could take his story as my own!) Are you short of material to engage your next audience? Always be in search of good stories to help make your point. Author and speaker Harvey Mackay amazes me with the stories he has collected over the years. His books and newspaper columns are always chocked full of interesting tidbits and stories that help him underline his points.
Get Help from the Audience: If you are comfortable enough with the audience you can set up a scenario and then ask for their help. “Who here can relate?” A big key to success is setting it up well. Whether teaching a class or giving a talk I always find I learn more when giving the people sitting in front of me a chance to share.
Some final thoughts on the doctor/athlete and his story: Though he wore a Super Bowl ring and stood four inches taller than anyone in the room, he also made a point of telling his story with a sense of wonder instead of a sense of entitlement. And he clearly knew his science when it came time to cover that part of the talk. The football heroics were just a part of his life — and a clever way to get his audience’s attention.
Favorite read of late: Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun
Need a Speaker for an upcoming event? How about Cary?
Here’s a quick example: www.Clear-Comm.net (Click on the homepage video.)
Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting, www.clear-comm.net, a Scottsdale, AZ communications consulting firm that helps people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.