The oral tradition of our society is as old as our species. As soon as speech was formed and maybe even before, stories were told around tribal gatherings and campfires. The best were preserved by story tellers and repeated over and over and embellished and polished.
Talented communicators were honored and even began to move from gathering to gathering to tell stories, enhanced with the theatrics of gesture and inflection. Some stories became as familiar to the gatherings as to the storyteller but the groups loved hearing good stories over and over again.
These repeated stories became a part of a culture’s oral tradition and were repeated by parents to children over the generations.
Over time, the culture would condense these stories into a few words or sentences and the individual would immediately understand.
We have the same tendencies in modern times. We know about the tenacity of the tortoise in his race against the hare. We know not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We know that a stitch in time saves nine and penny saved is a penny earned.
Think about the oral traditions of US History, true or not. The Pilgrims stepping off the Mayflower onto Plymouth Rock is an example. Washington throwing a dollar across the Delaware, Tom Sawyer getting a fence whitewashed. Teddy Roosevelt refusing to shoot a bear cub and thus unwittingly starting the teddy bear craze. Rosie the riveter, hippies and video gamers all are a part of our cultural heritage.
Because stories are so powerful, consider using them as a part of your presentation and speaking toolkit.
A good story, told in an engaging way can be a powerful way to start a speech and can be used to illustrate points in the speech throughout the presentation.
I was once asked to speak to a Junior High Assembly about drug use. I was the second speaker. The first speaker was well prepared and gave an excellent fact filled talk on the perils of drug use. The kids were polite, but a little fidgety, and looked at me with a little trepidation.
I knew that the first speaker was going to be fact based and I was going to follow him on stage with 300 eleven to thirteen year olds, so I was prepared.
I told them the story of a twelve year old boy in a tribe of people in a land faraway a long long time ago. This boy’s tribe walked around every day with a weighted ball attached to their right ankle. Every man, women and child in the village had this ball. The tribal people were not very good swimmers, had trouble running away from tigers and were generally a miserable lot.
The boy was out in the woods one day, and in the heat and humidity, his ankle bracelet slipped off. When he first tried to walk without the weight, he fell down. Soon, however he was walking with a new freedom and bounce.
Imagine the reaction back at the village when the boy bounded in with no weight attached to his leg. The older folks were aghast at this rebellion, but some of the other youngsters started working on freeing themselves. Soon the village was a happy place with the sounds of running and jumping kids and not the groans of people dragging their weighted ball around.
You get the point. I tied this into the weight of drug addiction and had a rapt audience all the way to the end. In fact, I bet you wanted to see where my story was going. Later I received a collection of notes from the kids who all remembered the story of boy just like them who refused to add the weight that drug use could add to their lives.
A good story is beneficial to the speaker and the audience. Both want to see where they are going with the narrative. Start looking for ways to tell a story and see your speeches succeed in ways you’ve never imagined.