Womenlines takes pleasure to welcome Michel Neray, a professional speaker, consultant and founder of momondays as a guest Influencer on Womenlines panel, sharing his expert knowledge related to public speaking with Womenlines readers. Michel has helped thousands of individuals craft and perform ‘purposeful’ stories to become more effective leaders, salespeople, coaches, teachers, trainers, speakers, and influencers of all types. He also uses Purposeful Storytelling to more effectively differentiate, position and brand organizations in the market. In this article, Michel is sharing about the importance of ‘Story’ in Speaking.
Most speaker training is all about performance, but in the mospeaker academy, we’re all about the story first. Of course, performance is important too, but it comes later. It has to… otherwise what, exactly, are you performing, right? Right. Turns out, according to neuroscience, we are on to something. (Duh!)Lisa Cron, author of ‘Wired for Story’, writes that neuroscientists believe stories are what make us uniquely human, and the way we process stories has been key to placing us at the top of the food chain. We are hardwired to use stories as the primary vehicle for making sense of our world. Evolution has made us crave stories — they fire our dopamine neutrons, and you know how much we crave that! In an article published in Harvard Business Review, Paul Zak reports on evidence that character-based stories cause the brains of the listener to make oxytocin, which in turn increases levels of empathy, trust and safety. That’s why he advises business people to begin every presentation with a compelling, human-scale story. But is there a specific structure to a good story? Are there any guidelines to engage the listener (or reader) from the very first sentence? If it were as easy as popping your content into a rigid formula, then every novel would be a bestseller; every talk would move millions of people to action; and, computers could write one for you. But alas, storytelling is as much art as it is science, and there are a myriad of tips and guidelines to keep in mind as you develop yours. Here are four:
- Start as close to the end of the story as possible. Many people start much too early because they feel that a lot of contexts is important. Trust me, it’s not.
- Build the action so that the listener is always wondering what comes next. Building in action gives the story a sense of movement; building each step of the action in such a way that you pique the listener’s need to know what happens next is what makes it totally engaging.
- Be clear about the ‘human’ element of your story. Your story is unique because it’s your story. Cool. But, it should also be ‘everyone’s’ story — that’s the human element. Chances are, you won’t know what that is when you start working on your story – trust me on that too – but at some point, as you tell and re-tell it, you’ll figure it out… and that will make all the difference.
- Consciously balance specific details with general descriptions. Specifics give the mind the meat it needs to chew on, but even the mind needs to swallow once in a while and digest it all. (How’s that for a mixed metaphor?) In other words, not enough detail is boring and generic… while too much detail is, well, too much.
Are these the only four things you need to know in order to tell a great story? Absolutely not. That’s why it takes practice, and perhaps a masterclass or two. (grin)