Category Archives: Research

The Power of Anecdotes: Transform Your Public Speaking with Captivating Stories!

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

When crafting a presentation, there are two ways we can use stories – as anecdotes to emphasize a point and support evidence or as the foundation of the entire presentation itself. In this blog post we will look at how to structure an anecdote and will provide you with a generic example. These examples are more of a framework than an actual story as they lack the details, but are useful nonetheless. In a subsequent post we’ll look at how to structure an entire presentation so it takes on the shape of a story.

Using Stories as Anecdotes in Presentations

Grammarly defines an anecdote as a short, self-contained story that usually highlights one theme, lesson, or aspect of a person’s character and can be true or fictional. They are often used in presentations to break the ice, make a point, or add a distinctive touch. Anecdotes can be especially helpful when presenting to an audience who might not be familiar with your topic. By using an anecdote, you can quickly draw in your audience and make them more receptive to the information you’re presenting. It can also help to make a point more memorable, as it is often easier to recall funny or personal stories rather than statistical facts or figures.

When using anecdotes in a presentation, it’s important to:

  • make sure they are relevant to the topic and appropriate for the audience.
  • keep the anecdote short and to the point, as you don’t want it to take too much time away from the main content of the presentation.
  • deliver the anecdote in a conversational tone. This will help to keep your audience engaged and make them more likely to remember the point you’re trying to make.
  • pause after telling the story, so the audience has a chance to digest the information.

When it comes to structuring anecdotes, there are many techniques that can be used. One of the most popular approaches is using the structure provided in Christopher Booker’s book, the Seven Basic Plots. This approach has been used by writers, screenwriters, and storytellers for years in order to craft compelling stories.

The first plot: overcoming the monster.

This plot focuses on the protagonist’s struggle against a powerful antagonist or ‘monster’ in order to achieve their goal. Whether it be an external foe or an internal conflict, this plot is all about overcoming obstacles in order to reach success.

Example: It was a daring move to launch a new product on the market, and in the beginning, it was met with some success. Our expectations were high, and we thought our success was assured. But soon, major frustration set in. We encountered obstacles that seemed insurmountable, and we felt that our product was doomed to failure. We had to find a way to overcome this challenge, or our product would never stand a chance. We worked tirelessly, exploring every possible avenue to make our product successful. We held brainstorming sessions with our team, and we sought advice from industry experts. Nothing seemed to give us the breakthrough we needed. We had reached the point of desperation and thought all hope was lost. But then, against all odds, we made a breakthrough. The breakthrough was so small that at first, it seemed insignificant, but we soon realized its potential. We modified our product to meet the needs of our target audience, and our sales skyrocketed. Our product was a huge success. We had gone through such a roller coaster of emotions, but we ultimately succeeded against the ultimate challenge.

The second plot: rags to riches.

This plot focuses on the protagonist’s journey from poverty or obscurity to wealth or fame. It is often used as a way of demonstrating personal growth and resilience in the face of hardship.

Mandy and John were two entrepreneurs looking to make their mark in the business world. They had heard of a business for sale and decided to take the plunge. They purchased the business, but when they arrived they realized the business was in pretty bad shape. The building was run down, the accounts were in disarray, and the employees were disgruntled. Mandy and John were undeterred, however, and determined to make something of the business. They worked hard to right the ship and soon found success. The building was renovated, the accounts were organized, and the employees were motivated. Mandy and John were elated with their progress, but soon realized that their main challenge was to make the business independent. Mandy and John faced this challenge head on, facing difficult decisions and long days. They worked tirelessly to make the business stand on its own. Finally, after much hard work, the business was in much better shape than when they bought it. Mandy and John had accomplished something great. They had turned a business in wretchedness into one of success. Through hard work and determination, they had made the business independent and were proud of what they had achieved.

The third plot: The Quest.

As its name implies, this plot follows a protagonist on their journey in search of something valuable or important. Along the way, they must overcome obstacles and learn life lessons before they can reach their destination and receive their reward at the end of their quest.

It was a difficult decision to make, but the board of directors had reached a conclusion: the company’s sales targets were not being achieved, and a major new product initiative was necessary. The board had high hopes for the project, but they knew that the road ahead would be filled with challenges. The team began their journey with a plan, but as they went looking for a solution, they soon encountered problems. Technical issues, regulatory hurdles, and financial constraints were all part of the challenge. Eventually, they thought they had found a solution, but it wasn’t so. The problems they were facing seemed insurmountable. But the team was determined to find a way, and they kept pushing forward. Finally, the team achieved their goal after months of hard work and dedication. They had managed to develop a new product that was successful in the market and met their sales targets. The team celebrated their success and looked back on the journey they had taken. They had faced some really big problems, but they persevered and never gave up. Their effort paid off in the end.

The fourth plot: Voyage and Return.

This plot follows a hero who embarks on an adventure before returning home with newfound knowledge or treasure that helps them achieve success in their life back home.

We were excited to attend the AI convention. We heard that there were going to be the latest and greatest technologies on show and couldn’t wait to experience them. When we arrived, we were astounded by the sheer amount of technology on display. We were particularly drawn to a new app that seemed incredibly advanced. We couldn’t keep our hands off it and without thinking, we installed it on our phones. At first, we were enthralled by the new technology and couldn’t believe how easy it made our lives. But then things started to go wrong. Instead of helping us, the app started to control us. We quickly realized that it was malicious and were desperate to uninstall it. Unfortunately, the app was incredibly difficult to get rid of and no matter what we tried, we couldn’t get rid of it. We spent hours going from one tech support person to another, trying to find a way to remove the app. Eventually, after many hours of frustration, we managed to uninstall it and return to normality. We were relieved that we were able to reverse the damage done by the malicious app and were thankful that we were able to get out of the nightmare we had found ourselves in.

The fifth plot: Comedy

This plot are based on different themes such as love, loss, marriage, and revenge which play out over multiple episodes until the hero finds his/her happy ending (or not).

John and I had been business partners for years, so it was a surprise when we began to disagree on every decision we made. At first, we thought it was just a temporary problem, but eventually, it became so bad that we stopped speaking altogether. The tension between us was unbearable, and nothing seemed to work no matter how hard we tried to resolve our differences. We were both so frustrated that we were close to giving up and walking away from the business. That’s when we decided to hire a business coach to help us work through our issues. The coach was able to unearth some new information that stopped the suspicions between us. We realized that we had both been wrong in our assumptions and were able to move forward with a new understanding. Finally, after months of disagreement, we were back on speaking terms again. We were both so relieved to have our partnership back on track and were determined to make the most of it.

The sixth plot: Rebirth.

This plot focus on characters being faced with difficult choices that ultimately lead them down a path of self-discovery and transformation towards redemption at the end of their story arc.

A business example of this plot is when a business faces a period of stagnancy or decline and needs to make difficult decisions in order to turn its fortunes around. This could involve taking risks and making changes to the way the business operates, or even changing the product or service offering. The business may have to try different tactics to find its footing, and in doing so, will gain insight into its weaknesses and strengths, allowing it to become stronger and more competitive.

And finally, there is the seventh plot: Tragedy

When it comes to the seven basic plots, tragedy is often the most discussed and the most difficult to understand. Although the definition of tragedy has been debated since ancient times, it usually involves the death of a protagonist, usually due to a fatal flaw or misjudgment, and has a moral to the story.

This is a particularly relevant concept for many businesses, as all organizations have the potential to experience tragedy. In this sense, tragedy can be seen as a lesson in understanding the consequences of decision-making.

A business example of tragedy would be a company that is forced to close its doors due to poor management decisions. This is an example of an organization that has failed to learn from the past, and has paid the ultimate price. The tragedy lies in the fact that the business has been unable to recognize the need to make decisions that are based on the long-term interests of the organization, rather than short-term gains.

It is a lesson in the importance of assessing the potential risks of every decision and being aware of the consequences of every action. On a more positive note, tragedy can also be seen as an opportunity for growth. The experience of tragedy can serve as a powerful motivator for organizations to learn from their mistakes and take steps to ensure that similar tragedies don’t occur in the future.

Using Christopher Booker’s seven basic plots when structuring your anecdotes will make them much more compelling for your audience since each one highlights different aspects of storytelling including character development, conflict resolution and emotional depth which will draw readers in even further. So if you want to craft engaging stories that your audience will remember long after reading them, try out these seven basic plots!

Using Humour in your Speech

Section: Words 2.2

Humour in Public Speaking Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Humour can be a powerful tool for public speakers, allowing them to engage their audience and enhance the impact of their message. It can add depth and colour to a presentation, making it more enjoyable and memorable for the audience. In this blog, we define humour, its importance, the types of humour to use in public speaking, and ways to deal with any potential issues.

Definition of humour

Humour is used to “provoke laughter and provide amusement”. It often involves a play on words, irony, exaggeration, or even self-deprecation. Humour helps reduce tension in the room and gives people something to laugh about during your presentation.

Benefits of using humour when public speaking

The benefits of using humour when public speaking are many.

Humour helps create a sense of connection between you and your audience. When you tell a joke or share an anecdote, you create a shared experience that can help build trust with your audience.

Humour can also help break down barriers between speaker and listener by providing some relief from the intensity of the topic being discussed.

Humour can make complex ideas more understandable by adding visual cues or making them easier to relate to.

Using humour when speaking can help create an enjoyable atmosphere that will keep people engaged throughout your talk.   

Preparation

When preparing a speech that will include humour, preparation is key. Knowing who you’re speaking to will give you an idea of what kind of humour they’ll appreciate and any topics you should avoid. It’s also important to consider the context of the speech and its purpose. This will help you decide whether jokes or a more subtle approach is most appropriate. Brainstorming ideas for jokes or stories also gives you plenty of content to work with so that you don’t have to rely on improvisation during your delivery.

Delivery

Once you’ve gone through the preparation stage, it’s time to focus on delivery. Speaking with confidence is essential for delivering humorous content effectively; if your delivery lacks conviction, it won’t have nearly as much impact as it could if you exuded confidence and enthusiasm when telling your jokes or stories. Timing your delivery appropriately is key; make sure each joke or story has enough time for its setup without dragging on too long before getting to the punchline. And finally, emphasizing certain words or expressions can add an extra layer of emphasis when telling a joke – this will help clarify points in case some members of your audience didn’t catch everything due to background noise or other distractions.  

Types of Humour to Use in Public Speaking

Self-Deprecating Humour: Self-deprecating humour is when you make jokes about yourself as a way of self-expression and entertaining your audience. It’s a great way to show humility, build rapport with your audience, and make lighthearted fun out of embarrassing situations.

Observational Humour: Observational humour is when you take something from everyday life that people usually overlook and make a joke out of it. This type of comedy often leads to laughter, since people relate to everyday experiences that many can relate to.

Wordplay and Puns: Wordplay refers to playing with words by making puns or jokes based on their meaning or sound. We can use this form of comedy in speeches or presentations as long as it isn’t too offensive or inappropriate for the occasion.

Pop Culture References: Pop culture references are always popular with audiences because they provide familiar topics that people enjoy discussing or joking about. Making references to popular movies, TV shows, songs, books, etc., can help keep your audience engaged in your message while providing accurate information in an entertaining manner.

Audience Participation: Audience participation is also an effective way to keep your audience engaged during a presentation or speech by asking questions, polling the crowd for opinions, or even having them participate in a game or activity related to the topic at hand. This will give everyone an opportunity to get involved and be part of the process, which will increase their interest level in what you have to say!

Dealing with Mishaps

The key to dealing with mishaps is to anticipate potential issues or misunderstandings before you begin speaking. Before getting up on the podium, take some time to think about which jokes might go over well with your audience and which ones may not land as well. You should also consider any cultural differences that may exist between you and your audience–for example, a joke about politics may fly with one crowd but bomb with another.

It’s important to acknowledge any mistakes made while delivering the joke or story. This allows you to move on without dwelling on what went wrong and risking further embarrassment. Instead of letting the moment pass without comment, apologise if necessary and explain why the joke didn’t work out as intended. Doing so shows that you are aware of the situation and willing to own up to it instead of trying to brush it off or ignore it.

After dealing with any mishaps during your speech, try not to dwell on them too much afterwards. It’s easy to become fixated on what went wrong, but this could lead you down a slippery slope where you start second-guessing every word uttered during your presentation. Instead, focus on all the positive aspects of your talk and leave any negative moments behind you as soon as possible so that they don’t cloud your judgment when preparing for future presentations.

In conclusion, humour is a powerful tool for public speakers that can help engage and entertain their audience and enhance their message’s impact. When used strategically, it can make a presentation more enjoyable, memorable, and impactful. However, it is important to understand how humour works, which type of humour to use, and how to handle any potential issues that may arise. With the right knowledge and preparation, humour can be used to significant effect in public speaking.

Choosing the right informative and persuasive language.

Section 2.0 Words.

Informative and Persuasive Language Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We can make a speech creative, engaging, and effective by choosing the appropriate informative and persuasive structures. This can be the difference between a successful speech and an ineffective one. In this blog, we will explore the various structures available, and how to choose the right one for your public speaking engagements.

An informative speech is a type of speech that provides the audience with information on a particular subject. Its primary goal is to enhance understanding, maintain interest, and be remembered.

Depending on the topic and the audience, Steven and Susan Bebee have identified five distinct types of informative speeches.

  1. Objects. In this instance, we are presenting information on tangible things, such as products, places, and destinations.
  2. Procedures. This type of speech requires the speaker to provide a step-by-step explanation of how something works or how a particular process is completed.
  3. People. Describing famous people or personal acquaintances is another type of informative speech. This type of speech allows the speaker to provide details and anecdotes about a particular person or group. This is especially helpful when the subject matter is related to history or culture.
  4. Ideas. This type of speech requires the speaker to provide an explanation of certain principles, concepts, theories, and issues. This is often used when the subject matter is complex and difficult to understand, as it provides the audience with an in-depth explanation.
  5. Finally, describing an event that either has happened or will happen is another type of informative speech.

When it comes to giving persuasive presentations, the goal is to change or reinforce attitudes, beliefs, values or behaviour. But it’s not always easy to do that, so it’s important to have a structure to your message. That’s why we use Andrew Abela’s SCoRE method for structuring our message.

The SCoRE Method stands for Situation, Complication, Resolution and Example. It provides a framework for any persuasive communication. Here’s how it works:

Situation: First, you need to define and describe the situation. This is the occasion for this presentation: something that everyone in your audience will agree on.

Complication: Once you’ve identified the situation, you must explain the complication. What is the issue that the audience is facing? What is the challenge they must overcome? What is the obstacle that stands in their way? This has to be the audience’s problem, not yours!

Resolution: Your resolution should propose a solution or provide a way to overcome the problem or challenge. How can the audience best move forward?

Example: Finally, you need to provide an example of how your proposed solution will work. What anecdotes, facts, personal experiences, expert testimony, statistics reasoning and logic can you use to prove your solution?

Intertwined in both informative and persuasive public speaking is the use of Aristotle’s logos, pathos, and ethos. Logos is an appeal to logic, focusing on facts and figures. Pathos is an appeal to emotion, allowing the speaker to connect with their audience on a personal level. Lastly, ethos is an appeal to credibility, allowing the speaker to establish their authority on the topic. By mastering these three elements, speakers can maximize their impact and influence on the audience.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these elements so that you can use them effectively when crafting your persuasive public speaking.

Logos: When appealing to logic, it’s important to present facts and figures that are accurate and reliable. It’s also important to provide evidence to support your statements. For instance, if you’re trying to make a case for a particular cause, provide statistics or research studies that back up your points. Once you have your facts and figures in order, you can use them to make a logical and convincing argument.

Pathos: When appealing to emotion, it’s important to connect with your audience on an emotional level. You can do this by sharing stories and experiences that are relevant to the topic. You may also want to use language that evokes emotion from the audience, such as phrases like “we can all relate to this” or “imagine what it would be like.” By connecting with the audience on an emotional level, you can draw them in and make them more likely to listen to what you have to say.

Ethos: When appealing to credibility, it’s important to establish yourself as an expert on the topic. This can be done by providing credentials, such as a degree, experience, or awards related to the topic. You may also want to cite your sources so that your audience knows where you got your information from. By establishing yourself as an expert, you can demonstrate your knowledge and create a sense of trust with the audience.

In conclusion, it is important to note that choosing the right structures for your speech can make a big difference in its effectiveness. By selecting the appropriate informative and persuasive structures, you can create an engaging, creative, and effective speech. With the proper knowledge of the different structures available, you can use them to your advantage and create an impactful speech that will leave a lasting impression on your audience.

References

Steven A. Beebe, & Beebe, S. J. (2014). Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, Global Edition (9th ed.). Pearson Education. https://www.pearson.com/store/p/public-speaking-an-audience-centered-approach-global-edition/P200000003688/9781292019109

Abela, A. V. (2013). Advanced presentations by design : creating communication that drives action (2nd ed.). Pfeiffer.

How to tell an amazing story that grabs the audience by the throat

A participant on a program recently worked on a presentation that was due in two days time. He delivered the presentation and I called him the day after: “How did it go Jim?”

“Not so good Justin”

“Why was that Jim, did you achieve your objective?”

“Yes I achieved everything I wanted to, but it just turned into a conversation”

Jim was stuck in an old school mindset of presenting – the “sage on the stage”.  What happened was his presentation turned into a conversation and he started to engage the audience because he was talking about things that are important to them – he nailed it!

So, the formulae we use to get the audience involved is what Andrew Abela calls the SCoRE method which is based on the work of Henry Boettinger in his book Moving Mountains. It works by juxtaposing tension and release – the formulae for all good stories.

SCoRE stands for:

Situation – what are you there to talk about – put simply in a few words

Complication – What’s the biggest problem the audience is facing.  This creates tension and the need.

Resolution – what’s the solution to that problem.  This creates the release and satisfies the need.

Example – provide some evidence as to why your resolution will work.

Then continue on with the next CoRE (Complication Resolution Example) for as long as you need to.

This simple formula enables us to craft a story, engage the audience and achieve our objective.

Boettinger, HM 1974, Moving mountains; or, The art and craft of letting others see things your way, 1st Collier Booksedn., Collier Books, New York,.

How understanding your audience will stop them attacking you

I was contacted by a PR company who was representing a psychologist. The psychologist had developed a workshop for the clients of a financial services firm. They asked me to facilitate that workshop.

The workshop was only two hours long and straight forward. It was about planning your use of time once you had retired. Even though I had many conversations with all the groups above, I didn’t investigate who was coming to the workshop.

On the evening of the workshop we were halfway through and I asked whether the workshop was making sense? One half of the room said the workshop was fantastic and the material really opened their eyes and made them think.

The other half of the room almost erupted in protest. “None of this makes sense”, “Only came here for the coffee” they yelled.  What was I going to do?

As it turned out there was nothing I could do at the time. The group who were “up in arms” had already retired, so telling them how to plan for their retirement was not very useful. The other group who were full of compliments were years off retiring so found the techniques relevant.

If I had my time over, I would have rung the financial advisers and found out more about who they were inviting. They could then have invited more of the right people!

How to not ruin your pitch, by knowing your audience intimately

A client was pitching for the construction of a government building with a high degree of complexity. There was only one engineer who had done this specific type of work before, and they were based in England. My client was able to successfully engage this engineer to be part of their bid team. This was a real coup for my client.

Unfortunately, they lost the bid.  They conducted a debrief with my client and were surprised to discover that one of the reasons they were unsuccessful was that the government didn’t really believe that my client would be able to engage the key engineer.  The reason for this was that they had tried and failed!

What could we have done differently to overcome this?

In the final presentation we could have

  1. Played a recording of the engineer saying how much they were looking forward to working with the government.
  2. Done a live cross in the presentation to demonstrate commitment.
  3. Flown the engineer out to be present on the day.

So, it is vital to understand what drives an audience on a rational and emotional level.

Moving Mountains

A participant on a program recently worked on a presentation that was due in two days time. He delivered the presentation and I called him the day after: “How did it go Jim?”

“Not so good Justin”

“Why was that Jim, did you achieve your objective?”

“Yes I achieved everything I wanted to, but it just turned into a conversation”

Jim was stuck in an old school mindset of presenting – the “sage on the stage”.  What happened was his presentation turned into a conversation and he started to engage the audience because he was talking about things that are important to them – he nailed it!

So, the formulae we use to get the audience involved is what Andrew Abela calls the SCoRE method which is based on the work of Henry Boettinger in his book Moving Mountains. It works by juxtaposing tension and release – the formulae for all good stories.

SCoRE stands for:

Situation – what are you there to talk about – put simply in a few words

Complication – What’s the biggest problem the audience is facing.  This creates tension and the need.

Resolution – what’s the solution to that problem.  This creates the release and satisfies the need.

Example – provide some evidence as to why your resolution will work.

Then continue on with the next CoRE (Complication Resolution Example) for as long as you need to.

This simple formula enables us to craft a story, engage the audience and achieve our objective.

Boettinger, HM 1974, Moving mountains; or, The art and craft of letting others see things your way, 1st Collier Booksedn., Collier Books, New York,.

Evidence is everything

The reality principle states that you should always present evidence that is concrete rather than conceptual. Showing real things, real people and specific details makes your presentation more interesting, memorable and persuasive.

Andrew Abela (Abela 2013, p 37) suggests the following when thinking about your evidence:

  • Provide lots of relevant detail – it increases credibility.
  • Verify your facts – where did your evidence come from.
  • Understand the constraints that inhibit your audience from taking action.
  • Demonstrate that you understand these constraints.
  • Make it personal and reflect that you understand the realities in your audience’s lives.

It doesn’t matter what type of personality your audience has, concrete and particular evidence is important for everyone.

Abela, AV 2013, Advanced presentations by design : creating communication that drives action, 2ndedn., Pfeiffer, San Francisco.

Pitch: Step 5 Anecdotes

We have completed audience analysis, objective setting, defined the biggest problem and overall solution, and collected all our eveidence.  Now we are going add some stories or anecdotes.

Abela (2008) describes anecdotes this way:

“The idea here is not to replace the evidence you have gathered, but to emphasize it. A story is not proof; it is just illustration. A story doesn’t prove anything, but it does get your audience’s attention and can sometimes drive a point home much more than reams of data.”

Why do stories work? In the following diagram from David Yang, imagine your life running along the horizontal axis, with a couple of blips.  That’s what its like for most of us.  Now look at the Cinderella story which is the green line  – very dynamic and engaging and most importantly memorable.

kurt v

 

So the more interesting and engaing our anecdotes the more likely they are to be remembered.  The good part is they dont even have to be true – they can be hypothetical. Which is only ok if you tell your audience.

Yang, D 2019, Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories | Visual.ly, visually, viewed 22 Jan, <https://visual.ly/community/infographic/other/kurt-vonnegut-shapes-stories>.

Abela, AV 2008, Advanced presentations by design creating communication that drives action, San Franiso, Calif. : Pfeiffer, San Francisco, Calif.

Pitch: Step 4 Evidence

In previous posts we have covered

  1. who we are pitching to,
  2. what attitudes and behaviours we want to change and
  3. what the biggest problem the audience has and our overall solution.

Step 4 is collecting all the evidence that we have available to support our solution.  We need to draw as braodly as possible and access as many different types of evidence as possible to ensure we meet the needs of our audience. Andrew Abela (2008) describes 3 types of evidence that you can use to support your recommendation:

  1. Use real and specific (rather than abstract and general) data wherever possible.

  2. Include a variety of different types of evidence and arguments—including evidence against your proposals.

  3. Pay particular attention to what is new and different in your information. Try to avoid repeating the same, tired old “facts” that everyone else quotes.

The next post is how to incorporate anecdotes into your pitch.

Abela, AV 2008, Advanced presentations by design creating communication that drives action, San Franiso, Calif. : Pfeiffer, San Francisco, Calif.

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