Being a decent presenter means that you are a decent storyteller, but why settle for decent when you can be great? Improving your storytelling skills will strengthen your presentation skills and make you a more compelling and dynamic speaker. Storytelling is one of the best ways to captivate an audience, so it is a skill worth perfecting. Practice makes perfect so here are a few exercises you can use to improve your storytelling skills.
Keep it Real
Most of us can probably agree that out email inboxes get flooded with junk mail containing catchy taglines that say something like, “Make 10,000 a week from the comfort of your home!” Obviously we are smart enough not to fall for that nonsense. Lying to your audience or saying something that sounds unbelievable discredits you as a speaker. Try reading your presentation out loud and make sure everything you plan to say is real and honest. Storytelling should add a personal touch to your presentation, not turn it into fiction.
Adapt for Your Audience
Think about the way you pack for a trip. Chances are your suitcase will look much different if you are packing for a business trip than it would if you were going on a beach vacation. We adjust our clothing to adapt to different environments. Similarly, you need to adjust your storytelling to adapt to your audience. You wouldn’t speak to a group of CEO’s the same way you would pitch a product to potential clients. Your story should be compelling but it also needs to fit your audience.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
We have all heard this before but there is real truth in that statement. Use a photograph, an interesting statistic, or a brief video clip to enrich your story. Connect with your audience through a visual lens. A visual will add authenticity to your story and give audiences something to remember.
You, yourself, have probably sat through your fair share of presentations. If so, many of them have likely been forgotten but the one that you might remember is the one that was different. That originality is what made it stand out from the rest. The same is true in storytelling. Audiences have all heard the same story about how Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team only to go on and become the best player in the history of the game. While that is certainly an uplifting story, it’s one we are already familiar with. If you want to be remembered, you have to come up with something original. Your story should be compelling, different, and impossible to duplicate.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Practice might not make you perfect but it will definitely make you better. This doesn’t just stop at saying it aloud over and over again. It also means researching great stories, exploring a thesaurus for great words, practice your dialogue, and looking for rich visuals. Then, practice telling your story in front of family and friends who will give you real feedback. You might even videotape yourself so you can watch it back and make any necessary changes. Practicing means that you are continually working to improve areas of weakness.