BOOK REVIEW: The Art Of Storytelling, by Nancy Mellon, USA, 1998

A good story engages listeners mind, body and spirit. Compare it with desert dry presentations of pie charts, bullet points and carefully cultivated poise and polish.

What’s missing is the uniquely human whimsy of imagination and creative self-expression. The storyteller’s powerful use of archetypes, metaphors, sound and movement mysteriously show us ourselves. It’s better and more real than Reality TV.

Nancy Mellon’s “The Art Of Story Telling” is rich with story after story, nibbling and coaxing your own ideas and creativity to speak and be heard. My husband bought this book at one of Nancy’s workshops (she was visiting Australia from the USA). He was thrilled with her skills in unfurling each character and then tucking them away as she returned to narration. Her easy control and confident releasing of control inspired him to engage all his senses and trust himself. He saw speaking in public and what you can do with it in an entirely new light. That workshop was for adults. All were gathered in a circle, breaths held for the next word.

Now imagine you are giving a presentation. Wouldn’t you love to have your listeners engaged, inspired and hanging on your every word? Even presenting Plastic Widgets and the implementation of Policy Reviews will be fascinating when you place your service, product or idea in the context of relevant, juicy storytelling.

Please learn how to do it and save us all from boring, polite presentations!

(c) 2017 Geraldine Barkworth. This review is the author’s opinion only.
There are a number of storytelling books from which you can learn. Nancy Mellon is a “psychotherapist who specialises in healing through the arts.” Here’s her website: http://www.healingstory.com/  And of course you can learn how to jazz up your boring presentation through creativity and story by working 1:1 with me: www.goddessofpublicspeaking.com.au

BOOK REVIEW: “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”, Stephen King, 2000

We are a word-based society. Your ability to articulate your thoughts with clarity, precision and flair is an essential life skill.

If you are a public speaker, you will also be a writer.

If you are a writer, judging by the number of authors I’ve worked with, you will also be a public speaker. Eventually. Those books won’t sell themselves.

My number one business activity is speaking and listening to clients. My number two is yes, you guessed it, writing. I always have a fat notepad by my side. I know many professionals have the same division of labour. When are we not composing emails, reports, articles and notes?

Recommended Reading

I decided to read and review “On Writing” because I’ve seen it referred to in so many Recommended Reading Lists for writers wanting to work on their craft. “On Writing” is entertaining and offers straightforward advice. And yes the author is the famous horror writer, Stephen King, so it’s filled with personal anecdotes and insights about his inner life as a writer.

One of the things I appreciated about “On Writing” was the author’s repeated acknowledgement of his love and gratitude for his wife for her support and honesty. It’s easy to get caught up with ourselves and forget the family and friends who keep us up upright on bad days. Stephen King describes the up and down reality of his life as a writer and it’s work, not glamour.

These 3 “On Writing” tips made me smile and change my wicked ways:

  1. Declutter! Everything irrelevant and redundant must go! At least 10% will be rubbish!
  2. If your message is meant to be engaging and energising, aim to write in active present tense, otherwise the slow slip into irrelevant boredom begins.
  3. Choose a physical writing location allowing you to be relaxed, focused and yourself. I set up a beautiful office, desk and client-seating and promptly avoided the place like the plague. I’m much happier and productive curled up on the lounge.

These 3 tips are also perfect for being a relaxed, confident presenter:

  1. Declutter!
  2. Be engaging and engergising by actively remaining in the present moment.
  3. Be yourself to do your best work.

There are many goodies within this book. I do have to stop myself from rewriting and cringing from everything I wrote previously. Ah well. Sounds like a ghastly speech I gave 5 years ago. “On Writing” is available on line, good bookstores and will likely be stocked at Writers Festivals.

(c) 2016, Geraldine Barkworth is an Australian public speaking coach who works with the psychology, physiology and sheer mystery behind public speaking fear. This review is the opinion of the author only. www.goddessofpublicspeaking.com.au

 

Bad Experiences Make Good Stories

story-telling-4x3

 

It’s true! Here’s a bad experience of my own turned into good story telling:

 

 

I was second speaker at a conference, talking about the elusive mystery of work life balance. So elusive, the first speaker was missing. He eventually turned up twenty minutes late and spoke AT the audience instead of WITH them. I had to re-energise, re-engage and refocus a hostile audience. I gained a lot of value from that crappy experience. It propelled me to morph into a specialist public speaking coach.

He Lost Me At “Hello”

Here’s how I translated that bad experience into a two minute introductory story:

“It was hot, it was sticky… it was a tropical conference at the top of Australia.
pause
A government minister was to open the conference and he was twenty minutes late. He shuffled in apologetically, flanked by four flunkies and hid behind the lectern. He studiously read a long paper written by someone else. He spoke quickly, his eyes down. Who was this man? Why was he here?
pause
I had no idea what he was talking about because he didn’t appear to be saying anything in ordinary English. I couldn’t tell where he was going or what was the point. I found the  audience much more interesting. There was a lot of glazed eyes, long suffering sighs and checking of text messages…
pause
I didn’t hear the rest of his speech because, “he lost me at “hello”.

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Two important things I learned at that hot, sticky conference:

One, when a speaker fails to acknowledge and personally connect with his audience, they switch off and stop listening.
Two, when a speaker fails to make his message customised and relevant to the audience, they switch off and stop listening.
pause
What is the point of speaking if no one is listening?

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As I was the speaker following him, I felt jittery. He was not only over time, but he’d lost our audience. This meant I had to work hard to regain attention and respect from the audience and keep my own spirits up after a dismal start.
pause
The turning point for me was the realisation that there is a big market  to show speakers how to connect heart to heart with an audience and to keep them listening.

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The result of that turning point experience is my public speaking course, “Free Your Inner Public Speaker”, which you are now experiencing.“

 

Being Personal Is Being Real
When you begin your speech with sharing a personal story, it begins a relationship with your audience. Start with a simple, graphic opening line. Pause to let the audience catch up and have their own experience of relating to what you said. Briefly tell the rest of the story. Tell what you’ve learned from that experience and how it relates to the purpose of your talk. Engage their interest first. Then explain how it is relevant to them. Make eye contact one person at a time.

Drop Trying To Be Clever
Don’t struggle with trying to put something “clever” or “perfect” together (that’s a “should” coming from your head). Instead, take a leap to trust your instincts (coming from your body and heart) that what tumbles from your lips will be good enough. It’s your true story in glory and simplicity. Your story telling just may a bit of polish.

The key is to practise again from a fresh perspective, using what you learned from your first story telling practise. Ask yourself each time: What flowed and felt good? What didn’t?

And Don’t Forget To Pause
Taking the time to pause often while you speak, gives you time to gather your thoughts, tune into your feelings and speak from that place. It allows your listeners to catch up and travel along with you.

Sometimes speakers feel nervous or believe they don’t have anything of value to say, so they too speak quickly or nervously fade away. Which are fabulous ways to lose your audience. The “pause” draws people in – they want to be with you, because you are with them. Pausing is natural and normal and feels like relief.

Now It’s Your Turn
Choose a story from your past, it may be twenty years ago, it may be yesterday. Choose a turning point for you, a significant learning that caused you to change, grow or overcome a problem. Or maybe you didn’t overcome it. Perhaps that was the valuable learning.

Take a closer look at the format I used for my turning point story above, “He Lost Me At Hello”. Let that rest gently in your head like a memory, not a lesson.

Right now I want you to resist writing out your turning point story so it doesn’t get caught up as a carbon copy of the one above. Writing things out perfectly often leads to memorising and sounding like a stiff piece of cardboard. Trust yourself you can tell your story, what you learned from it and what you can therefore share or teach others, because… you were there… how could you forget?

Distill The Essence

Start by recalling the story… identify what you learned… and then distill the essence into something you find valuable and can assume your potential listeners will too.

Now say it out loud. It’s ok to ramble a few times. It’s may be easier to practise with some one else. Get the guts out, then reduce and create a story telling picture. Remember to pause as you recall it and to allow listeners to share in the picture you are painting. Another benefit of saying it out loud first, is your language will sound more natural.

If you want to write it out, you can do it now! And if you’d like to learn the rest of the “He Lost Me At Hello” story, you can download my free 6-page e-book and learn how to re-engage, re-energise and refocus yourself and your audience.
(c) 2016 Geraldine Barkworth, public speaking coach, www.goddessofpublicspeaking.com.au

 

Turn Boring Into Compelling With Story Telling

Here’s How To Wake Up People

Oh dear. It’s your turn to present “the boring talk.” Facts. Data. Process. Working Party Analysis. Procedure. Treasurer’s Report. Policy Revision Announcements, again. Your shoulders droop in anticipation of everyone’s boredom, including your own. There goes that influential career, that great first impression… But wait! It doesn’t have to be like this!

Turn Boring Into Compelling
Facts, figures and data do not engage emotion or imagination. No picture is created when detailing complex data and procedural information in a droning voice. This means your labouriously crafted fact-filled presentation just sent people to sleep or at least created a texting opportunity.

What to do? You need to create a story that demonstrates the relevance and meaning of your data that causes your listeners to care. When people care, they wake up, get engaged and take ownership of your ideas and recommendations. Stories create action!

Information sharing allows you to make sense of the data. Story sharing allows you to make connection with listeners.

Both are important and need to be mixed together. But remember, people remember feelings before facts. Set your data free and make it compelling by placing it within the context of a relevant, emotion filled, picture based, prop assisted, short story, metaphor or analogy.

This Is How To Do It
Step 1:
Choose your central message. Consider your data to be shared. Ask yourself, “What will make my listeners sit up and relate and then care enough to do something about it?” (Or if you were in the group – what would get your interest?)

Step 2:
Best fit – you must ensure the story is the best fit for the audience and the data. Any hint of flakiness or irrelevance will lose engagement.

Step 3:
Decide on structure – the conveyance vehicle in which to house your data. Does it best suit a simple analogy because you have only 3 minutes to speak? Is it a complex series of steps that would be better understood within in a story which has echoing steps? Do you need to give a warning? A tale of dire consequences of inaction may be best.

Step 4:
Craft a relevant short story – use sensory description to engage emotion and imagination. Then add dynamic movement and interesting props to make your data come alive with meaning and feeling. Don’t assume listeners are silly – if you paint a clear picture they will work it out for themselves (and thus become more engaged.)

Step 5:
Never hurts to practise – don’t memorise – just learn the essential bits. Keep in mind that if you are interested, you will be interesting.

Example: I Use This One All The Time… And It’s A True Story
Dull Version:
Welcome to our annual talk on Manual Handling and Safe Lifting Practise In The Workplace. Take out your Procedural Manual and add these extra pages in – they are colour coded – yes I know there are 48 different colour codes… As you know it’s important to maintain a safe workplace. Keep a look out for electrical cords you could trip over and faulty equipment…

Vibrant Version:
I’ve fallen off my bike, I’m 10 years old, a semi trailer is coming at me. Fast. Instead of keeping my eyes on the road, I had turned around to boss my brother about.

What I learned from that experience was the importance of paying attention and of keeping my bike in safe working order. My brakes you see, had failed and I knew it but hadn’t bothered to do anything about it…. today I’m going to talk to you about the importance of keeping yourself safe in your workplace. My hope is that none of you will experience anything similar to what I did that day on the highway…

How To Work With Geraldine On Telling Your Story
Telling Your Story is easy with expert, objective help. Contact Geraldine to schedule a coaching session via skype or phone or book her to run a workshop for your organisation.

© 2015, Geraldine Barkworth @ Goddess Of Public Speaking.