Speaking: How to Tell Stories Without Memorizing Words

One of the secrets of effective speaking is to be able to tell stories that make your point. Stories are much easier to follow, they have greater impact and they are more memorable to the audience. Ask someone in the audience later which parts of your talk they remember and it will always be the stories.

But stories can be undermined by clumsy delivery, so they are weakened if you fumble for words or -- eqully bad -- recite from a memorized script. By far the best way to tell any story is to tell it from the heart, remembering just the story and not the exact words. It might look like this comes naturally to some speakers but it is always the result of years of practice and a deliberate effort to master the art.

Anyone can learn to tell stories compellingly. Part of the problem is simply having enough speaking experience, and if you feel that you don't have enough the answer is to speak more often. There really is no alternative. You can't learn to speak by reading a book or by standing in front of a mirror. It's like riding a bike of playing piano; you have to do it to master it.

At the same time there are some techniques that can make your storytelling come more easily and more naturally.

Practice many alternate wordings. Don't start with a script to memorize. This will only work well if you are an exceptional actor, and even then a simple distraction could knock you off your carefully rehearsed track and leave you fumbling for words again. Instead try telling the story over and over again, each time with different words an perhaps starting in different places. Repeat this often enough and the words will come more easily from the heart and not a script.

Visualize what you describe. Stories that have really happened to you personally are always much easier to tell because you have a genuine memory in your head that guides you. You can achieve a similar effect with any story by visualizing the scene in your head, so you "see" it and can describe it more fluently. Think about the situation, the scene and the actions rather than words and phrases.

Add depth to your knowledge. Research more about your stories than you need. Never tell everything you know because that leaves you feeling less confident and guards less effectively against a hole in your recollection. By knowing more than you need you will feel that you are on more solid ground and even if you stray a little from your planned way of telling the story you don't end up in a dead end where you can't continue.

These simple concepts will help anyone to become a more fluent storyteller, but the most important secret of effective storytelling is that mastery of the art comes with practice. Practice on your own, practice with friends and practice with live audiences.


Lectures, Workshops, Coaching, Writing

If you would like talks, lectures, interactive workshops or one-to-one coaching about speaking and influencing techniques contact Andrew Hennigan through speaker@andrewhennigan.com or 0046 73 089 44 75. One-to-one coaching can be face-to-face in the Stockholm area or through Skype anywhere in the world. Learn how to go from good to great, great to awesome or just staying awesome but spending less time on each presentation.

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