the Power of "Signature Stories" to Enliven Your Presentations by
is hard to believe that there are still presenters who, when introduced
and take the platform, will start their presentation with a, “Thank
you. I am so pleased to be here,” or they tell a joke or a story
that bears no relationship to their topic. Yes, you usually are pleased
to be speaking to the group - or you should be! And, yes, laughter helps
to build rapport with your listeners, but please don’t use a joke
to elicit it. Saying all of that, I now want to stress the importance
for presenters to take the time and effort to develop strong and effective
signature stories. Why and what is a “Signature Story?” Read
What Is a “Signature Story?”
A “Signature Story” belongs to you - just like your own signature
does. It can be a personal story about your own experience or experiences.
It can be a story about someone else’s experience - just don’t
use well known stories that have been around forever. We have heard them
time after time (the Kentucky Fried Chicken story and the Roger Bannister
story, for example). It can be an original story that embraces the topic
and/or points of your presentation. Or, it can also be a traditional story
or fairy/folk tale that has been updated to fit your presentation. I have
used all, and with proper preparation, they have all worked to my benefit.
Why Use “Signature Stories?”
that our “Signature Stories” need to be riveting and topnotch,
we will find that as long as we make them unique and “our own,”
our listeners will react and remember us and our stories. Good stories
are easily internalized, so we as listeners will be able to think back
and remember the points made in the presentation. I also enjoy hearing
a good story again and again. I remember and love re-hearing Zig Ziglar’s
cafeteria story; Jim Rohn’s Girl Scout cookie story; Stephen Covey’s
use of the traditional “Golden Goose” story; along with many
other stories told by these leading motivators and other powerful presenters.
Developing the Personal “Signature Story”
advantage of developing and using your own personal story is
that it is “unique” to you. That doesn’t mean that
it doesn’t seem plausible and even bring to mind similar stories
that your listeners have experienced - actually, this is even better,
because they will relate more to you and your topic. It is OK to embellish
a bit, but my warning here is to share your struggles rather than your
triumphs. People like to hear about times when you are the “bug”
rather than the “windshield.”
be afraid to expose some of your weaknesses or fears. I have
a story that everyone loves called “Bat in the Bathroom.”
It gets lots of laughs and many of my listeners rush up after my presentation
to share similar challenges with nature’s creatures.
other caveat about personal “Signature Stories”
is that you are not using them for your own therapy. I have heard speakers
who think they are touching the hearts of their audience, when they
are actually making them uncomfortable. I tell a positive story about
my son’s bout with cancer, but it took me several years before
I could tell it without crying. Once I had control and started to tell
it - it is called, “I Believe in Miracles” - I have had
many relatives of cancer patients thank me for sharing it (and years
after I have told it).
Personal “Signature Stories” about Other People’s
can be motivating stories about an historical person - please,
not Thomas Edison! Do your factual research about the character, the
times in which he or she lived - what they wore, what they ate, and
other details you won’t use, but need to know yourself. Then craft
a story (for the ingredients of a good story, see below) that
has meaning and pizzazz.
can also be stories about someone you know or have known -
be sure, if they are still living that you have permission, even if
you give them a different name. This type of story - because it isn’t
about you - can tell of accomplishments and triumphs. Just remember
that you never want to tell a story that you wouldn’t feel comfortable
telling if the person it is about is a member of the audience.
Original, Traditional Stories with a Twist, or Fairy/Folk Tales
fear that many presenters feel that “Signature Stories”
must have been something that actually happened. Not necessarily true!
I have a cockroach story that is based on the “Pied Piper of Hamlin”
that I have told for years. I have also heard excellent presentations
based on Aesop’s Fables - they offer a plethora of plots
and morals, of course.
if you love stories and go both ways - as a speaker and storyteller,
as I do - use the fairy or folk tales that mean something important
to you. It will add such a good change of pace to your presentation,
your listeners will sit up and take notice. And, love you for it too!
Ingredients to Use When Developing Your “Signature Story”
would be remiss at this stage not to mention some of the ingredients
that help you develop, prepare, and tell an effective, compelling story.
A good story has a beginning, middle, and end. It must include conflict
or crises, and a climax or resolution. It is not merely a descriptive
anecdote it must have plot.
your stories short, punchy, and meaningful. Include pauses,
drama, suspense, and not too many details. Think in images and create
those pictures for your listeners.
do visit my companion site,www.storytellingpower.com,
for articles on just about everything to do with story and storytelling.
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