Posted by: George E Burney | May 24, 2012

Public Speaking: Shatter Preoccupation – Start With A Story!

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As you begin to give your introduction, your may already be operating at a disadvantage. The minds of some in your audience may be preoccupied with thoughts which have nothing to do with you or your subject. If you don’t capture their attention quickly, they’re likely to continue with their reveries. If they do, you may not mentally cross paths with them anytime soon. They may appear to be looking at you, but things are not always as they seem. Their minds may be a thousand miles away. How do you quickly shatter their preoccupations and get them to focus on what you’re saying? Begin with a story.

Why We Love Hearing Stories

Stories attract our attention. Why? They make thinking pleasurable, not laborious. They stir and engage our imaginations, giving them free rein. As we follow the narrative, we fill in the scenery just as we please. Our minds are not required to conform to the merciless rigidity imposed by factual information, nor do we have to struggle to draw inferences and make connections. In short, we like, enjoy and relish a good story, told well. Once heard, we easily and instinctively recognize precepts, morals and instructive patterns in the story. Drawing appropriate conclusions is a snap.

At The Beginning Of A Story, We Drop Everything Else

For these reasons and others, we drop other considerations when he hear the beginning of a story, just as we do when watching the opening scenes of a movie. We pay attention because we don’t want to miss anything. Your audience will do the same if you begin with a story.

Make It Pertinent

Of course, the story told should be pertinent to your discussion. Preferably, it should have elements which parallel some of the important points which will be under discussion. When this is the case, references to those elements and their connections to your points can be woven into your discussion. Just as water follows the path of least resistance, so do our minds. Unless there is some pressing reason to do otherwise, we pay attention to whatever seems most attractive and interesting to us at the present moment. This can work for you or against you as a speaker. Since you have the advantage of advance preparation, why not use it to capture the attention of your audience quickly?

Eliminate The Competition

One of your objectives as a speaker is to present the audience with something at the very outset which is so interesting that it quickly eliminates its competition. A story told in your opening words fits the bill nicely.   For a comprehensive discussion of this subject, please see my eBook, Creating and Using Stories, Examples, and Illustrations in Public Speaking. For more information, click here:


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