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5 Golden Rules of Speaking to Promote Your Business, Without Turning Off Your Audience – Rule #3 – Tell Personal Stories


When I first started my speaking career, I’d written down some witty things that I’d heard other speakers say.  I remember one such witticism delivered by the speaker immediately after he was introduced.  The line went something like, “Thank you for that marvelous introduction.  You read it just like I wrote it.”  The line got a laugh so I thought I’d use it in when I spoke as the luncheon keynote for a state association conference.  As I was rehearsing and timing my speech, I saw that I had too much material and decided to cut the line, even though I hated giving up the laugh.

On the day of conference, I arrived super early, worried about getting caught in the Atlanta traffic.  I arrive two hours before I was to speak so I watched the speaker who spoke before me.  Guess what line he used immediately after being introduced?  While the audience laughed, I was relieved that I’d decided to drop the line.

Imagine how I would have turned off that audience if I’d used the exact same laugh line as the speaker before me!  What would that have done to my credibility?!

I learned two important lessons that day.  One – always try to get to the venue super early and listen to those who speak to the group before you.  Two – don’t steal material from another speaker – use your own stories.


Rule #3 – Tell Personal Stories

There are three compelling reasons why you want to tell personal stories.

First, stories have a way of engaging an audience.  Notice for yourself, the next time you’re listening to a presentation or a sermon, do your ears perk up when the speaker starts to tell a story?  Do you find yourself wondering how the story will unfold?  From caveman stories to modern day drama, human beings are drawn to stories.  Take advantage of that fact to connect with your audience.

Second, stories make your points easier to retain.  If you illustrate a point by telling a story, your audience is going to be more likely to remember your point.  One of my long-term clients came to me 21 months after she had heard me speak.  As we started working together, she recounted a story that I’d told during that speech.  She remembered the story I’d told her 21 months earlier!  And when she was ready to buy, she called me.  Stories make you more memorable.

Third, personal stories let the audience get to know you.  Have you ever seen an actor or a sports celebrity and thought to yourself, “that would we a cool person to have a beer with”?  By their being out in the public eye, we feel like we get to know celebrities.  Speaking in front of the group also has a similar impact.  Telling a personal story lets people get to know who you are and what you’re like.  People want to do business with people they know, like and trust.  Personal stories fast track you with an audience into that realm of feeling like they know you, they like you, and they trust you.

So tell personal stories that engage the audience.  Use good judgment. Don’t make the stories so personal that the audience is embarrassed for you. It’s OK to tell business and non-business stories.  But don’t tell any stories that will make the audience uncomfortable unless you have a really compelling reason for doing so.  Do make sure the story links to a point you’re trying to make and tie the story and the point together for the audience.  Use details in your stories where you can.  And don’t let the story go on for too long.  But try using stories and see what a difference you’ll make in connecting with your audience.


Now it’s your turn.  How do stories make a difference in your presentations?

Let us know your examples in the comments below!