How To's

Wake Up Your Listeners!

Wake Up Your Listeners

Banish Boredom With Stories

Oh dear. It’s your turn to present. You hope it’s not going to be too boring. Treasurer’s Report. Working Party Analysis. Policy Revision Announcements. Facts. Figures. Data. Your shoulders droop in anticipation of everyone’s boredom, including your own. But wait! There is a simple way to wake up your listeners!

Turn Boring Into Compelling

Facts and figures are devoid of emotion and imagination. That’s their nature.

But people remember feelings before facts. Humans need to care, to feel a connection that is personally relevant and real to them. The simplest, most direct way to accomplish this, is to place your facts and figures within the context of a story. Stories banish boredom.

Compare These Two Presentation Starts…

  • “Welcome to our talk on Manual Handling. As you know, we deliver it every year to keep our company accreditation. We will run through the importance of a safe workplace, hazards to look out for, common accidents and the procedures to follow should an event occur. Statistically, 98% of accidents are…”


  • “I’m 10 years old, lying beneath my push bike. There’s a big truck coming my way and I’m sprawled on the highway… What I learned from that experience, was the importance of maintaining my bike. My brakes had failed and the tires were bald. I knew, but kept putting off fixing them. My dad was with me that day and he dragged me off the road in time… But dads aren’t always with us and now, it’s up to us to look after ourselves and our colleagues. Today, we’re going to work together to keep our workplace safe and accident free.”

Be Personal

When you begin your speech by sharing a personal story, it begins a relationship with your audience. Start with a short, 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.

Honesty Rings True

Keep your story honest and simple. You should be able to remember it, because it happened to you or someone you know. Declutter and hone the main point of the story. This is a case of less is more.

Remember To Pause

Taking time to pause when you speak, gives your listeners time to absorb your words. When speakers talk too quickly, listeners can’t keep up and lose interest. It’s disrespectful, inefficient and a great way to lose your audience. Pausing is a natural and normal part of conversation; it draws people in. Pausing is inclusive.

What Happens After the Story

Adults and children recognise that a story is a metaphor for a life lesson. It’s core of wisdom offers a benefit. That’s the WIFM. Once you’ve given something of value and engaged the interest of your listeners, provide backup with facts, figures and proof. When an audience cares, they will listen to your data.

No one will be bored when you spell out the relevance and consequence of how that Treasurer’s Report, Working Party Analysis, or Policy Revision Announcement, directly impacts them. Start with a story and wake up your listeners.

© 2020, Geraldine Barkworth, public speaking coach. This article or review is the author’s opinion only.