Posted by: George E Burney | November 2, 2012

Public Speaking – Tell a Good Story!

Abraham Lincoln, upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, is reported to have said, “So this is the little lady who made this big war.” What did he mean? She was the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which is thought to have been a factor leading to the American Civil War. And what was Uncle Tom’s Cabin?  It was a story. A story which had a powerful effect on the thinking of millions of people.

Who Doesn’t Enjoy a Good Story?

Stories are tremendously appealing to us. We’re drawn to them as to a fire on a cold, rainy night. They make us think effortlessly. Since we’re not personally involved in the narrative, we can get past our issues and draw conclusions free of the blinders we often wear. What is true of us is also true of others. Everybody loves a good story. Work them into your discourses.

When we tell interesting stories in our presentations, ears perk up. A well-told story introduces variety, which every audience welcomes. Even so, they should not be used just because the audience may enjoy them. We should use them to establish or support main points.

Don’t Let the Tail Wag the Dog!

What good is done if we effectively use a story to make a minor point? So what if members of the audience remember the minor point because of the story? Minor points are those which are not critical to our discussion anyway! Doing that would be like letting the tail wag the dog! So use a story only when a vital point needs to be made and remembered.

Make Sure They Get the Point

A strong connection should be made between elements of the story and the rest of your presentation. In other words, the point of the story should be stated clearly, leaving no room for confusion.

We’re all alike, but we’re different, too. We think alike, and we think differently. Someone in your audience may draw the wrong inference from a story, simply because of a recent experience they had. They’ll connect the two, and go off on a tangent to arrive at a conclusion which you may never have dreamed of. So, make the connection and application crystal-clear.

For a more detailed discussion of stories, please see my recently published eBook, entitled Creating and Using  Stories, Examples, and Illustrations in Public Speaking, available at For more information, click here:



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