Having done executive coaching and corporate storytelling training over the last 23 years, I have seen many common mistakes from folks wishing to use storytelling for business presentations. Here are three of my quick fixes for public speaking issues.
Fix Number One: Take your story seriously.
World stories, myths and legends have endured for many centuries because of their ability to carry powerful messages in the small space of well-selected words. Use this power carefully. When I work with clients, they will often have spent many hours on their appearance, their eye contact and the slides they will project. However, they only spend minutes on story selection and presentation. This is a big mistake. There is no such thing as a simple story. Stories are powerful tools and, used incorrectly, they will explode back at you. Stories selected with care, crafted with good storytelling techniques and told with an intentional purpose will create a long-lasting impact on your audience. Your listeners will remember your stories long after the memory of your nice tie, fancy dress or overhead slides quickly fades away.
Fix Number Two: Plan the gestures you will use.
Your hands do not always need to be in motion nor held clasped in front of you as if you were carrying a bouquet of flowers. Avoid making choppy hand movements with eve-ry syl-la-ble you speak. Plan your gestures to match your story and move effortlessly and smoothly from one gesture to another. Let you hands rest naturally at your sides in between gestures. Try to avoid the finger pyramids or hand clasping between gestures.
Fix Number Three: Speak in your natural voice.
One of the best time investments you can make as a public speaker is to watch a professional storyteller speak to your target demographic of adults. You will see and hear the differences between how one tells stories to adults and how one practices storytelling for children. You must avoid the "sing song" voice of the unpracticed storyteller, who, like revered hosts of children’s television programming, makes a lilting vocal pattern that sends adult audiences screaming out of the room.
Also, be aware that when you speak personal or "real" stories about your company you do not imitate or mimic the voices of others. Speak in your own voice. In most cases, do not change your voice to reflect your perceptions of the gender, race, regional origin or social status of those of which you are speaking. Mimicking another can quickly backfire on you, causing you to lose goodwill and trust with your audience.
Remember, in all your speaking, to consider your audience and their needs.You wouldn’t want to speak in the same way to a group from the association of corporate counsel as you would to a group of technical engineers.
Applying these quick fixes for public speaking will help your audience to be fully immersed in your presentation. Your storytelling, well prepared and well coached, can lower your public speaking anxiety and make you one of the best business speakers your audience has ever heard.
Sean Buvala ( Twitter him @storyteller) is an award-winning storyteller, experienced business speaker and executive speaking coach who helps businesses grow their bottom line and create employee satisfaction through the power of storytelling. His website is http://www.seantells.net. He offers private training and coaching. Learn about his small group, multi-day workshop at http://www.executivespeakingtraining.com .