Suppose you’re speaking to a business audience. A sure-fire way to capture attention is with a story.

But you need to tell it well. That’s not hard, just follow these four rules.

Let’s practice with a story about job interviewing.

1) Open with tension.

Bad: “I finally found a job after a lot of unsuccessful interviews.”

There’s no tension here—there’s not really even a story—because we already know the end.

Instead, present a problem that makes your audience wonder, “What happens next?”

Better: “After 124 unsuccessful interviews, I was convinced I’d never work again in the synthetic resin industry.”

2) Give appropriate detail.

Bad: “Several job interviews ended in less than 5 minutes flat. The shortest one was over in 1 minute, 29 seconds. I remember timing it with my Casio watch—it has a stopwatch function. The watch was a present from my ex-girlfriend. She was still my girlfriend when she gave me the watch, but I think the gift was her way of saying, ‘Time is running out, buddy.’”

You can err by giving too much or too little detail. Most people give too much.

Better: “The shortest interview ended right after a good, firm handshake. The interviewer looked at his hand, grimaced, muttered something about needing ice for the swelling, then dashed off.”

3) Make it visual.

Bad: “Being rejected isn’t fun.”

A good story creates a picture. Spice yours with imagery.

Better: “Being rejected is like getting kicked in the stomach by your ex-girlfriend (not that she ever did this, but it sure felt like that when we broke up).”

4) Close with a call to action.

Bad: “So, I guess that’s it. Thanks for listening for more than 1 minute, 29 seconds, and for not kicking me in the stomach.”

Make sure you have a message, and spell it out. Otherwise your story is irrelevant.

Better: “It’s important to never give up—in life, in romance, or in the synthetic resin industry.

So my challenge to you: PERSIST.”

Tip:  Pay attention to your stories, and your audience will pay attention to you.

© Copyright 2022 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.

P.S. STAND OUT, every time you speak . . .

1) Virtual workshop—I’ve been leading Dynamic Speaking, a four-session course for small teams. We practice how to get heard, get remembered, and get results.

2) Webinars—e.g. Stories that Work; The Power of Presence; Your Point?—Be Concise; Resilience @ Work . . . Click here for all 12 programs.

3) 1-1 Coaching—Got an important, upcoming communication? I’ll help you with design (what to say) and/or delivery (how to say it with presence). Click here for details

PAUL HELLMAN consults & speaks internationally on how to make your point—fast, focused, powerful.

Latest book: You’ve Got 8 Seconds: Communication Secrets for a Distracted World Selected by a Fortune 50 company for their book club, translated into five languages, available in print, kindle, audio.

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