One Simple Trick to Connect Your Story to Your Audience
I was sitting down, waiting for Jim to practice his story. He’d been working very hard to make this an impactful talk. He wanted it to leave a lasting mark on the audience.
As I listened to it, the speech was falling flat – there wasn’t that energy or emotional bond I’d felt when we first met.
Before my eyes, Jim had transformed into ‘Speaker Man.’
Something had to be done!
That’s when I had a thought.
“Jim, sit down!”
With a startled look, he said, “Excuse me!”
[Important note: Jim is about 3 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than I, so he’s probably not accustomed to guys speaking with him so brusquely.]
“PLEASE sit down….sir.”
“Jim, I’m not ‘feeling’ your talk. You sound automatic and rehearsed.
Let’s go back to Square One. Sit back and talk to me like you did the first day we met, when we discussed your early life. Give me your speech again, but across the table, like two old friends reminiscing.”
He breathed a sigh, smiled slightly, leaned back in his chair, hands interlocked behind his head, and started over.
About 90 seconds later, I said, “Stop! Please…sir. THAT is what I want – a conversational tone. Forget all of the ideas about being a speaker, or how many people will be in that hall, or how much of an impact you’ll make.
Just talk with them. For every point you make, look one person directly in the eyes, and have a brief chat with that person. Then move on to the next person to make your next point, or share your next story.”
He grinned with a look of relief. “Michael, I was beginning to feel so rigid and stilted with this talk. I knew I was losing something, but I wasn’t sure what.”
From that point on, Jim developed and delivered a talk that was a big hit with his audience. They won’t soon forget the emotional stories he shared about overcoming a huge obstacle in his life.
What I took away from this experience is a new approach to coaching. It’s called ‘Sit Down Coaching’ So often, enthusiastic speakers push themselves hard to improve their speeches – what Jim experienced. Sometimes, you push so much that you stop communicating, and you start rehashing memorized words – and you make no connection.
1990 World Champion of Public Speaking David Brooks told me that, “Once you’ve got your speech internalized, you know your message, and you’re ready to share it on the big stage, it’s time to take the polish off.” I didn’t truly understand what he meant until my experience with Jim. ‘Take the polish off’ means be conversational; talk WITH your audience, not AT them.
The next time you feel yourself getting stuck, or that your original enthusiasm for a speech is getting lost in the preparation, take a step back…..
Find a friend.
Go a favorite location.
Have a seat, and give your talk over a meal or beverage.
You’ll find that your presentation will once again feel like… a friendly talk. And that is what your audience ultimately wants.
You really want to Stand OUT! the next time you speak?
NEXT BLOG: Turn Mistakes into Memorable Messages
RECOMMENDED RESOURCE OF THE WEEK
Increase your storytelling skills by at least three times in the next 12 months. ’52 Storytelling Tips’ will teach you skills that grab audience attention, keep their interest, and compel them to act on your message. To register for these free tips, click here