Business speeches donít need to be a boring dialog totally involved with figures and projections. They can be interesting, dynamic and captivating -- and still incorporate the figures and projections needed to communicate the intended business message. The key is to include appropriate stories at strategic points in the speech, particularly at the beginning and conclusion.
In recent months, Iíve presented storytelling programs for many groups.
Several program requests came from leaders of business and professional groups. It confirmed by belief that business people love a good story and respond positively.
Storytelling, in verbal or written form, has the unique quality of captivating the listenerís attention and concentration. The stories themselves can dramatically illustrate techniques that can produce more business success and creative ideas for business growth and development, or they can set the stage for a special business report. After the telling of a good story, an audience is attentive and programmed to really listen to the speaker.
Also, as a result of the positive audience response to an introductory story, the speaker has more self-confidence in delivering his primary message. and can do so more forcefully.
Speechwriters would be well advised to seek special stories that not only fascinate the audience but have viable educational and motivational qualities in themselves. For example, after presenting a recent storytelling program at the Reagan Presidential Library in California, I was approached by a young businessman.
"Your story about the California Gold Rush gave me some good ideas about expanding my own business," he said. He referred to the part in my story about gold prospector John Studebaker. When this prospector couldnít find any gold, he teamed up with a blacksmith and started making wheelbarrows to sell to other gold prospectors. He became known as "Wheelbarrow Johnny" and made so much money selling wheelbarrows he subsequently was able to launch a very successful automobile manufacturing operation, making cars that carried his name.
"I operate a reasonably successful coffee bar in a shopping mall," the man at the Reagan Library told me. "On Monday, Iím going to look into possibilities of selling coffee makers and other related items in my shop. Thanks to you, and John Studebaker, for the idea."
While listening to the story, this man could almost see Studebaker panning for gold unsuccessfully and finally coming up with the idea of making and selling wheelbarrows, he said. He could see these images in his own mind while following the storyline, and he applied the story to his own situation.
Thatís the almost magical effect of storytelling.
Creating and producing his own mental images of that scenario, rather than seeing them on a TV set or movie screen, had a much greater impact and influence in his life.
Thatís the beauty of storytelling as integral elements within a speech, and maybe the reason behind storytellingís current revival in popularity. The images are personally created by the listener -- not spoon-fed into the system with electronic images flashed on a screen via TV, movie or video. Thus, it has a much greater influence on the listener. He will remember it longer and respond to it more positively.
Storytelling is the worldís oldest communications art form. Itís been used through the ages as a key element in educating and motivating people, as well as entertaining them. Nothing has really changed in that regard, despite rapidly advancing communications technology.
In the specialized field of speech writing, the inclusion of the right stories in the right positions within the speech can be the spark that ignites a winning presentation.
C. 2000-2002 Jim Woodard is a professional storyteller and writer. He has delivered hundreds of storytelling programs for groups (children and adults) in West Coast cities and the Midwest. He also writes a nationally syndicated newspaper column.