During a recent speech coaching session, one of my clients said, “I saw you speak in London a couple of years ago, and I was particularly impressed with your personal stories. They made me feel connected to you.” His words simply reinforced a principle that has come to mean a great deal to me; our stories are our connection to our audiences. Your audience wants to know, understand and believe that in some way, you are like them. Your stories, your experiences are perfect tools for accomplishing that goal.
One technique for sharing your stories is that of sharing your ‘BEFORE AND AFTER’. Your message can come from a life experience that results in any type of change. You could talk about your mindset, lifestyle, perspective or more, based on your perception and understand at one point in your life. That’s your BEFORE condition. Your story then can take the audience on your journey…perhaps a journey of self-discovery, gaining an education, the development of a relationship, etc. This all leads to the changes that you make…the AFTER condition. The decisions you made, and the action steps you took, lead to the lessons learned along the way. They are the points of wisdom that you can share with your audience.
Your BEFORE AND AFTER need not be about revolutionary life changes, but they can be represented in any area of your life. Maybe you left home and moved, not to another city, but to another country. Perhaps you chose to go back to school and undertake a particular course of study. You may have chosen to end a long relationship, chosen a completely new career path, selected entrepreneurship, or a host of other changes. Your message comes from the life lessons you learned along the way. The changes need not be massive or gargantuan. They can be as simple as losing weight, as I have. Often, when I speak about my weight loss, I will show my BEFORE AND AFTER photo as a visual aid.
My weight loss BEFORE AND AFTER story involves different characters, including my wife Andrea, and my daughter Andrene, who were instrumental in my decision to use the WeightWatchers program. Themes in the story include the concern that my family had for my health and well-being, and the influence that they had and used, for my benefit. Lessons include self-discipline, health, and change. It’s a SIMPLE story, but a POWERFUL one. Its value comes not only from my PHYSICAL change, but from the lessons learned during the process. The JOURNEY is the true teacher.
No doubt you have undergone changes of one sort or another, and your BEFORE AND AFTER story could be the perfect fit for one of your presentations. Remember, your stories are your connection to your audience. Take a step back. Take a look back. Unfold your BEFORE AND AFTER experience, and TELL YOUR STORY!
Speakers have told me that they are concerned about telling their personal story because it’s all about THEM and they don’t want to be seen as self-centered. Here’s a thought. Your story is ABOUT YOU, but it is FOR YOUR AUDIENCE. Think about the ways that your experiences can SERVE your audiences, and TELL YOUR STORY!
STORY Q & A
Q: I’m a Toastmaster preparing for a speech contest. How often should I rehearse my speech?
A: To fully embrace, memorize and internalize your speech, I recommend rehearsing at least 200 times. That includes doing so while performing household chores like ironing, doing yard work, taking a walk or run, working out at the gym, riding the train/tram/bus, and presenting to a live audience. Prepare your self well, and TELL YOUR STORY!