How to Connect With Your Audience
Learn 4 easy tricks to keep your listeners’ attention.
As a child, every year on my birthday, I would wake up to the smell of roasted garlic, onions, and tomatoes. When I came down for breakfast I would see a HUGE pot of bubbling red sauce with splatters all over the stove. My mom would wake up super early to make my favorite meal: homemade gnocchi with red sauce.
Waiting for the sauce to turn a deep red was torture. Throughout the day, I would beg my mom with a big smile, “Please let me ‘test’ it for you. I can dip a little bit of this Del-Buono’s roll in the sauce and let you know if it needs anything”.
It makes my mouth water just thinking about it! What was your favorite food from childhood?
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That was an example of a small moment story. Did I paint a picture in your head? Could you relate? Did it elicit any feelings or memories?
When speaking, it’s important to always include stories as a way of connecting with your audience. Whether you’re raising funds, explaining your work, convincing customers to buy your service or products, sharing the values of your organization, or in any other presentation of your ideas, telling a story helps your listeners engage and connect with you.
For example, a typical sales presentation usually starts with facts about the company: the revenues, a list of customers, etc.
How to Use Stories
Instead, I suggest you start by telling a compelling story of how you solved a customer problem (the more relatable to the audience, the better). By telling a true story, your prospect can relate to the issues faced by that company and you can talk about how your products and services solved their problems in a way that is not boastful, but rather powerful and engaging.
Similarly, when creating testimonials, think of a story. What was a problem that you solved that others in your target market can relate to? Talk about how your solved the problems in the form of a story.
How about when you are trying to inject values? Instead of creating a mission statement, think instead about stories that can be retold and that employees can identify and connect with; stories that emphasize the organizational values you are interested in promoting and developing. For example, tell specific stories of workers that went the extra mile and were rewarded.
Meaningful stories create a bond between yourself and the audience and make the information you are presenting far more interesting and engaging. When a story is well told, the visual and sensory details elicit feelings and memories that naturally bring the listener closer.
Many of us intuitively understand that stories are important and we may even be reasonably good storytellers, but what are the specific elements of a good story? I’ll discuss them in this series.
Tip #1: Start Your Story With a Question
A strategic question will elicit certain thoughts and ideas in your audience’s mind. These can serve as a jumping off point for your speech or argument. One word of caution: If you ask a question, be sure to use the information you asked for in some way. Don’t just ask a frivolous question.
I could have started my story by asking, “What was your favorite childhood food?” But in my case, I chose not to ask that question until the end of my story, because I knew that would create a mind trip for the listener. Instead, I wanted you to be fully present for my small moment, stir up memories in your own mind, and then, at that point, I wanted to send you off into your own memories.
Tip #2: Start Your Story With the Setting
[[AdMiddle]Children are often taught to start stories with “weather leads.” For example, “Even though it was dark and stormy, but I was still able go to the water park because it was inside.” The weather is something everyone can relate to, so that strategy can sometimes work. However, a weather lead can also be classified as a setting.
Many stories start by describing either a place or a time, such as “I celebrated my 40th birthday at Rancho La Puerta Spa in Mexico,” or “I was in my office” or “I was at the pool.” Of course, we’re all familiar with “Once upon a time…” The idea is to paint a picture in the mind of your listener of where/when the story occurred.
Tip #3: Start Your Story With a Sound
Another way to start is to use onomatopoeia, or sound words: “crash,” “bang,” “swish,” “woof,” and “kerplop” are some examples. Sound words are fun and draw attention, which of course, is the goal of the beginning of your story.
Tip #4: Start Your Story With a Generalization
For example: “Everyone in my family met their spouse in a strange and unusual way…” Again, the idea is to generate interest by choosing something relatable that will get the audience engaged in the story.
That’s all we have time for today. We’ll pick up from here next time…This is Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker, passionate about communication. Your success is my business.
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