Sitting at what is perhaps the 1000th conference of my storied career, I’ve come to one firm conclusion: speakers who don’t include stories in their speeches or even panel discussions should be fired (if not shot…) Here’s why:
Information is dead. This is my personal opinion, so feel free to quote me. In the age of instant information available to everyone in seconds–trust me, information isn’t what audiences are looking for from a speaker. What’s worse is that what they’re getting instead of inspiration and direction is boredom. In all of your marketing (such as your website, tagline, elevator speech or ad) and especially when you’re public speaking-please please please stop making it about just giving out the info.
Illustrate With A Story Instead
Ever heard the saying “don’t tell me, show me?”. Well, why not use stories to demonstrate what you want to teach? For example, in the panel I just watched, one speaker said “digital marketing needs to be integrated into the consumer experience”. Cue eye rolling, blah blah boring..Then, the guy next to her said “I just updated my phone 7 weeks ago and yesterday I got a text from my cell provider to upgrade to an older version of what I just bought. So their integration is sh** and they just lost my confidence as a company!” Which speaker do you think made the point better? Which one do you think should be fired (or shot?).
Countless research shows that people who engage emotionally with a message are much more likely to buy. So, as a speaker, even if you have nothing to sell for money, you are still selling ideas and trying to teach something. If you can’t engage emotions, you can’t engage attention. The best way to get emotion into your speech or article or elevator pitch or sales presentation is to either make people feel pain or pleasure. It’s that simple. If I see another speaker who doesn’t tell stories to teach and engage, I might just poke my eyes out.
But It’s Not My Script
Now I can sympathize with corporate sponsors or even academic speakers who are given a pre-approved script. My advice to them is to go off-script. Barring getting fired for telling real-life, human stories that better communicate the message, don’t just show up and throw up the stale boring material that’s being handed to you by head-office. The best speakers are CEOs of huge corporations and yeah, they’re telling great stories. So, start thinking of relatable stories the next time you’re asked to speak ANYWHERE, even at your cousin’s wedding!