It’s a well tested fact that speeches and motivational speakers aren’t remembered for their content – they are remembered for how it was delivered. Information is not what impacts an audience. If meeting planners just wanted content they could buy a book for everybody and save a lot of money. It’s the experience that impacts the audience – the way the content was wrapped – the stories.
When you tell someone what to do you are just dumping more information on an already crowded soul. When you tell a story you are achieving a hundred different things at one time – and pulling them into your life – showing instead of just telling. Stories are vital to the success of a speech, and to the success of a speaker. So where do you find them? Not from other speeches. Your stories must be original and written by you. They can be about other people but not written by other people. Don’t use some tired old story we’ve already heard from seven other motivational speakers. And don’t impress us with how many people you can quote. If we wanted to know what Einstein thought we would look it up. We came here to hear you! Quote yourself. Even if it doesn’t sound that fascinating to you. It’s not perfection audiences crave but authenticity. They came here to meet you. Let them get to know you.
But that still leaves the speaker with a challenging task – finding stories. Many are tempted to simply tell the story of their life in one boring monologue starting three generations back and including every last achievement they can think of or even make up. We didn’t come for a book report. Don’t tell us your life story. Just give us the highlights – the nuggets of your life that were life changing or turning points – where you learned something big – mistakes you made, times that you picked yourself back up. If you’re going to tell us about your family – don’t give us a book report on them either. Just give us the highlights of your mother – as they relate to your message. If they don’t relate, we don’t need to know.
Here are some places you can look for stories:
- Your own life.
- Your family’s life.
- The lives of friends and mentors, or people you admire.
- Times that you didn’t follow the advice you are giving today.
- Times you messed up.
- “Firsts” – First Date, First Job, First Car, etc.
- Where you used to be before you got your life together.
- Times when you followed your advice and it worked.
- Things that happened to you today – or that you saw happen to others.
- Things you heard about that made you scared, happy – that challenged you.
- Stories about what it’s like to live in your house – what it’s like to be a mom to a teenager – life from where you sit – your daily struggles.
- Stories about your kids.
- Stories about your pets.
- Stories about trips you took and the things you saw and the people you met that changed your life. People who influenced you growing up – either in a positive or negative way.
- Take themes from motives, books, sitcoms, funny emails. Don’t use the story – but use the theme. For example: it’s funny when husbands and wives fight over stupid stuff in a sitcom. Use that theme.
- Talk about experiences that you share with the audience – relationships, dating, Facebook, first love, first job, grandpa, your first car.
- Talk about your quirks and the things that make you unique.
- Tell us what it was like for you growing up.
- Tell us how you started your first business.
- Tell us stories about difficult bosses or people in your neighborhood.
Content compels, but the story sells.
I have just given you twenty places to look for stories, and I could probably give you twenty more. But you get the point. This is plenty to get you started. Have fun and happy writing.
Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, comedian, motivational speaker, Huffington Post Contributor, and cast member of The Fashion Hero television show airing on Amazon Prime. She is also the author of Who Hijacked My Fairy Tale, The Land of If Only, The Story Formula, and The Affirmation Journal for Positive Thinking. She was a featured entertainer for Holland America Cruise Lines, keynote speaker for the International Toastmasters Convention, and has keynoted major conferences and corporate events from coast to coast. She just launched her one-woman show Who Hijacked My Fairy Tale in theaters, and it is being booked all over the country. In July of 2022, she was inducted into the National Speakers Association Speaker Hall of Fame.
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