Imagine you’re writing a story. It’s filled with imagery, word pictures and creates the scene you want to convey. It perfectly illustrates the point you want to make. You just know people are going to love this great tale.

Typically, once you’re done writing the first draft of your story, it’s time to see if the rest of the world agrees with your assessment of its power.  Feedback is critical to understand if your message is clearly getting through to the audience.

Why is feedback from others important?

Because it’s difficult, if not impossible, to objectively look at your own material with a critical eye. You’ve put time, sweat and emotion into crafting your message. To then sit down and take some of your creation – your babies – out of the speech can be an emotional experience.From Forgettable to Memorable Story

However, during a recent coaching call, I picked up a new tool – a powerful question – that might help you get past this barrier.  Mark Brown, professional speaker and 1995 World Champion of Public Speaking, asked this on a recent coaching call:

“If I take this (word / sentence / paragraph) out, will it hurt my story?”

This question forces you to edit your story to its essence. This, in turn, increases your odds of keeping audience interest.

How do you do this? 

Take a look at this story about one of my speech coaching clients:

I was at a Chamber breakfast four years ago. While standing off to one side, I noticed a smartly dressed woman walking toward me – nicely cut hair, classy business suit, and beautiful jewelry – not ostentatious, just enough to let you know that she was a woman of means.

But her face betrayed her appearance. She looked anxious. She got within five feet and said, “I understand you’re a speech coach!”

I looked at her name tag, which read ‘Patti.’  I said, “Yes Patti, I am. Can I help you?”

“Oh, I hope so. I’ve done something really stupid!” she said.

“What did you do?” I replied, expecting something really juicy.

“I agreed to give the keynote speech for the Successful Women of the Year dinner” she said.

“Is that all? Why is that a problem?”

“My problem is, when I speak, I don’t know when to shut up!” she said.

I laughed, and she said, “I’m not trying to be funny, Michael. This is a terrific opportunity for my Foundation, and I don’t want to embarrass it, or my people.

This speech is stressing me out – I get knots in my stomach just thinking about it. I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, and I get up in the morning sick to my stomach.”

I said, “I can see that this is really getting to you.”

She said, “I’m really worried…  Can you please help me?

This story takes about 90 seconds to tell.

The original version was a bit longer (note: sections that were eventually deleted  highlighted in black):

“I was at a Chamber breakfast four years ago. I was part of a committee for the Successful Women of the Year event. It was my first meeting as a member of the committee.

As men often do at those events, I was standing near the food. You could smell the donuts and the freshly brewed coffee in the air. The sound of people chatting could be heard everywhere.

While standing to one side, I noticed a smartly dressed woman walking toward me – nicely cut hair, classy business suit, and beautiful jewelry – not ostentatious, just enough to let you know that she was a woman of means.  A friend on the committee told me that this woman and her husband had built some successful businesses in the area.

But her face betrayed her appearance. She looked concerned. She stopped and briefly chatted with people, but I could tell she wanted to talk to me. When she got within five feet she blurted “I understand you’re a speech coach!”

I was caught off-guard by her abruptness. I looked at her name tag, which read ‘Patti’. I said, “Yes Patti, I am. Can I help you?”

“Oh, I hope so. I’ve done something really stupid!” she said.

“What did you do?” I replied, expecting something really juicy.

She said, “Well, I’ve been on this committee for years. I’m a past winner of the award. Somehow, I allowed Cathy to talk me into doing something I don’t want to do.”

“What was that?” I said, even more eager to solve the mystery.

I agreed to give the keynote speech for the Successful Women of the Year dinner” she said.

I was let down. I love opportunities to speak, but I just said, “Why is that a problem?”

“My problem is,  when I speak, I don’t know when to shut up!  The only reason that people applaud when I’m done speaking at our Foundation meetings is because…. I’m finally done speaking.” she said.

I laughed, and she said, “I’m not trying to be funny, Michael. This is a terrific opportunity for my Foundation, and I don’t want to embarrass it, or my people.  Several people have told me I need to get some coaching.”

She paused, then said,”This speech is stressing me out – I get knots in my stomach just thinking about it. I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, and I get up in the morning sick to my stomach. Michael, I’m in my 60’s – I’m too old to have morning sickness!”

I said, “For someone who isn’t trying to be funny, you are, but, I can see that this is really getting to you.”

She said, “It really is. I’m really regretting this, but I don’t think I can get out of it. I’m really worried…  Can you please help me?

This version take nearly twice as long. When you look at the additional parts, they didn’t push the story forward. They were extra filler that you probably won’t remember. The first version is much leaner, and still creates the emotional connection.

Want to keep your audience interested throughout your story? 

Get lean. Ask the question that will help you edit to the core of your story.

“If I take this (word / sentence / paragraph) out, will it hurt my story?

Do this, and the impact of your story will skyrocket.

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How Can One Question Make Your Story More Memorable? ultima modifica: 2016-05-14T19:21:31-04:00 da Michael Davis

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