“Stories cannot demolish frontiers, but they can punch holes in our mental walls. And though those holes, we can get a glimpse of the others, and sometimes even like what we see.” —Elif Shafak, Turkish storyteller
History is full of leaders who carved a niche for themselves through their oratory skills. They have style, substance, and impact. They have an incredible ability to hold an audience of many people in the palms of their hands. These leaders are remembered for their power of spoken words rather than performance. They can inspire others beyond their lifetime. They influenced the course of the history of humankind for good and bad. The leaders who did good are remembered as heroes and heroines, while the leaders who did badly are remembered as villains. The leaders with a positive attitude grew as great leaders, while the leaders with a negative attitude vanished as wicked leaders in the dustbins of history. Oratory is an art, and it depends on the leaders how they use it. If they use their talent for good things, they can make a difference in people’s lives. In contrast, if they use it for bad things, they can cause destruction.
The Importance of Storytelling
“Story is to human beings what the pearl is to the oyster.” —Joseph Gold
Storytelling is an essential tool to convey your ideas and insights effectively. Since ancient times, humans have enjoyed listening to stories. They want to put themselves into the shoes of heroes and heroines to inspire themselves. They don’t appreciate information overload. As a speaker, you must convey your ideas and weave stories around them to enable the audience to feel they are an integral part of it. You also can share anecdotes and illustrate with examples to enable the audience to connect the content with their real lives.
Research shows that people remember the stories rather than storytellers in their lives. It indicates the impact stories make on people’s minds. Particularly if the stories are inspiring and message oriented, the impact often is everlasting. Stories convey complex ideas in a simple way. Stories persuade people to act. While sharing stories, focus on emotions and connecting with your audience. Be emotional to inspire your audience but don’t get carried away by emotions. Remember, when you share facts, your presentation can become boring. But when you share stories, your presentation becomes inspiring and everlasting.
Humor in Public Speaking
“The first ingredient in conversation is truth; the next, good sense; the third, good humor; and the fourth, wit.” —Sir William Temple
Humor is an integral part of life. It is essential during public speaking and presentations. It triggers an increase in endorphins, the brain chemicals known for their feel-good effect. When people are bored, they watch programs that contain lots of humor to forget their worries and tensions. There are innumerable advantages associated with humor. It alerts audiences, connects with them, and brings them into one platform. It invites their attention to listen and can energize bored audiences. It enlivens potentially dry or dull content. It relieves tension. You can convert that attention into engagement.
Is humor essential in public speaking? The answer is both “Yes” and “No,” but humor does have several advantages. It can help in breaking up a tense situation or catching the audience’s attention quickly. It also helps recharge a stressed audience.
Trainers and speakers often use humor as an ice-breaking tool to lead their audiences to the actual content. Keeping the audience profile in mind, use humor to connect with your audiences. The tools and techniques deployed differ from situation to situation.
Successful speakers can use humor to put themselves in their audience’s shoes and then gradually lead them to the real issues and challenges. Keep in mind that in the end, it is the message that counts, not the humor.
Occasionally, speakers use too much humor, which is not healthy as it sidetracks and sidelines the essence of the message. Successful public speakers use limited humor to quickly connect with their audiences. They use humor as a tool to convey the message. For effective and successful public speaking, it is essential to blend both entertainment and education, with more emphasis on the latter.
That’s why it is important to never confuse humor with a message. It is necessary to draw a fine and thin line between them. The objective of public speaking is to drive home the message. In this process, humor is only a means, not an end. Ultimately, it should be the takeaways that linger in the audience members’ minds.
“Man is eminently a storyteller. His search for a purpose, a cause, an ideal, a mission, and the like is largely a search for a plot and a pattern in the development of his life story—a story that is basically without meaning or pattern.” —Eric Hoffer
Adapted excerpt from “Secrets of Successful Public Speaking: How to Become a Great Speaker” by M.S. Rao, Ph.D. For more information, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Successful-Public-Speaking-Speaker/dp/1628656107
Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D.is the father of “Soft Leadership” and founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is an international leadership guru with 38 years of experience and the author of more than 45 books, including “21 Success Sutras for CEOs” (http://www.amazon.com/21-Success-Sutras-Ceos-Rao/dp/162865290X). He is a C-suite advisor and global keynote speaker. He is passionate about serving and making a difference in the lives of others. His vision is to develop 1 million students as global leaders by 2030 (http://professormsraovision2030.blogspot.in/2014/12/professor-m-s-raos-vision-2030-one_31.html). He advocates gender equality globally (#HeForShe) and was honored as an upcoming International Leadership Guru by Global Gurus (http://globalgurus.org/upcoming-leadership-gurus). He developed teaching tool Meka’s Method; leadership training tool 11E Leadership Grid; and leadership learning tool Soft Leadership Grid. Most of his work is available free of charge on his four blogs, including http://professormsraovision2030.blogspot.com. He can be reached at: email@example.com.