Written by Christian Speaker Network Member, Harold “Bud” Boughton
“God wants us to tell stories.”
In my business career, I had the good fortune of working for three Fortune 500 companies (Procter & Gamble, Xerox and IBM), each of which were known for their outstanding sales training. Interestingly, each of those companies saw the value of “storytelling” in achieving sales success. But, more than achieving sales success, these companies knew something else – everyone enjoyed hearing a well-told story. If you truly want to engage people, if you really want to get their attention, tell them a story. Stories, more than anything, capture the essence of our lives.
But it’s not enough to just “tell” a story
Okay, so you decide to tell a story to your audience as part of your presentation. Great! But, you can’t just tell your story and expect for it to have any impact if you just mindlessly blow through it in a minute and a half. If a story is going to be remembered, if a story is going to be told over and over again (isn’t that what you want?), the story has to be told effectively. Telling a story effectively may be the very best way for you to connect “emotionally” with your audience and as someone who has done professional speaking engagements for 30+ years, there is nothing more satisfying than when you tell a story and see someone in your audience wipe a tear from their cheek or belly laugh as you deliver a special moment of humor. Those are the moments when you know you have connected with your audience.
How does one tell a story “effectively?”
To help you become a master at telling stories, here are six points that will get you well on your way.
- Stand up! You are always more effective telling a story when you are on your feet. Your ability to control the room, to walk and talk at a certain pace, to use hand and arm gestures is so much better when you are up on your feet.
- Set the stage. Begin by telling your audience that you are going to tell them a story and pause for a moment. Then begin by painting a ‘mental picture’ for them. Don’t jump ahead to the meat of the story without first telling them about when and where this took place, the time of year, whatever; but take your audience ‘mentally’ out of the environment they are in and bring them “deeper” into your story. Make them feel like they are living that experience.
- Describe the people in your story in some detail, either by their physical appearance, their temperament, personality, etc. “Humanize” the story so that your audience feels like they really know who the people are. Ideally, they may even relate someone in your story to someone in their life. .
- When you are describing the real impactful moments or points of your story, use pause to give key points emphasis and repeat key phrases. Remember, as men and women of faith, the personal stories we tell must be relatable to the lives of the people in our audience. And as a good reminder, remember that as we tell our stories, as much as it is for our audience, we tell our stories for the Glory of God above all else.
- Close your story with a ‘value statement’ that specifically speaks to your audience. Is it a verse of scripture? Is it a key statement, something someone in the story said that had significance? Help your audience feel the connection and see that the story you just told has relevance and meaning for their lives as well.
- Last but certainly not least, practice, practice, practice! Effective story tellers know how and when to pause for affect, when to soften their voice to emphasize a point, and when to raise their voice and use more dramatic gestures. Yes, it is a performance and it combines the very best of your skills as a public speaker, and yes, even that of a thespian. To do it well takes practice.
I am thankful I learned early in my career just how important it was to be a good storyteller. But what about Jesus? Wasn’t He the Master of all Storytellers? Didn’t he tell stories (the Parables) all the time to educate his followers? Isn’t that how the disciples learned? Isn’t that how we learned to connect with God, through Bible stories? And yes, haven’t those stories been told countless times to educate the masses and bring Jesus Christ into the hearts of millions of people? God wants us to tell stories.
About Harold “Bud” Boughton
Bud spent the majority of his professional life marketing and selling technology-based solutions to the financial services industry. As a retired senior executive and published author (3 books), he now works for a not-for-profit Christian radio station (Shine.FM) affiliated with Olivet Nazarene University. He is a certified official with both USA Hockey and US Lacrosse and serves as Team Chaplain for a college football program. He spends much of his time doing freelance writing and professional speaking engagements. Learn more about Bud on his Christian Speaker Network page.