Friday, October 30, 2009


There are three things to aim at in public speaking: first, to get into your subject, then to get your subject into yourself, and lastly, to get your subject into the heart of your audience”. -Alexander Gregg

Some studies have shown that fear of public speaking ranks up there with the fear of death. The more I read about the subject the more convinced I am that the art of Oral Tradition should have it's rightful place in school curriculum. I have personally witnessed the shyest students blossom as they take the stage armed with the tools they learned from participating in my storytelling troupe.

Recently, I came upon an article written by my friend Bill Lampton, leader in the field of corporate communication. It is amazing how many of his points apply to the storytelling as well.

First, here are some of the storytelling tips I share with my student tellers.


1. Visualize– Let the story live in your mind’s eye. See the details, hear the characters.

2. Create an Image -What do the characters and places look like, smell like, and sound like?

3. Voice- Use your voice to define characters and establish mood and attitude.

4. Add Energy to Your Story - Gestures and body language will help identify characters and bring it to life.

5. Make It Your Own - Let the story live, bring your own images and emotions to it. If you make a personal connection with the story the audience will connect as well.

6. Pay Attention to the Audience - Scan the faces in the audience. Find those who are right in the story with you. Notice their facial expressions and body language. They are giving their energy back to you! Use it and relax into the story.

7. Imagine Success - Hear the audience applause. Relax, breathe. This is about connection, not perfection!

Now, juxtapose the above with the tips Bill shares below.

By Bill Lampton, Ph.D.

When I provide individual speech coaching, and when I direct presentation skills seminars, I emphasize these 7 necessary steps for speaking with poise, power, and persuasion.

1. Adopt an upbeat ATTITUDE
Form a mental picture of success. Anticipate your audience's unbroken attention, laughter, and applause. Assume you have something worth saying, and that you will say it well.

2.Focus on the AUDIENCE
This way, you won't become excessively concerned about yourself. Remember, audiences want you to succeed. They aren't critics, they are your cheerleaders. Embrace them--then they'll embrace you.

Listeners don't want to wonder if you have a pulse. So don't read or recite your message. . . tell it as energetically as you would describe a fun weekend. Move away from the podium, gesture freely, vary your voice, just as you do in casual chit chat. Createwhat actors call "The Illusion of the First Time."

Remain on the lookout for audience feedback. When you detect confusion, restate your point. When you see listeners nod in agreement, let their support energize you.

Even adults love "once upon a time." People remember and learn from your stories, not statistics. Paint word pictures, giving a "you are there" feeling. Use suspense with the skill of a novelist. Paul Harvey carved a grand speaking career as a master story teller.

6. Sharpen your APPEARANCE
Although casual and sometimes sloppy dress have gained some acceptance, your audience wants you to dress a notch or two above their norm. Tasteful, professional clothing reflects that you respect them and the occasion. Not surprisingly, you will gain confidence and energy as well.

Do something different from other speakers. Examples: unusual props, impersonations, games, regular audience interaction, or magic if that's your talent. Note: Every season, new TV shows succeed because they become distinctive.

Next time you speak, try these "7 A's." They work. Your audience will give you an "A" grade for sure.

Whether it be in schools or the corporate arena, communication skills are necessary for personal and public success. For more on the value of bringing storytelling into our schools go to Storytelling In Schools, an amazing, downloadable booklet and brochure. It is filled with quantitative studies, innovative projects books, journals, articles and web sites are all at your fingertips.

For additional research on how our brains are hardwired for story, visit the Teacher's Page on my website at

Picture courtesy of


StateStories said...

Great stuff - I will post a link at massmouth. Norah

Karen Chace said...

Hi Norah,

Thanks for the shout out. Feel free to link it.


Jai Joshi said...

Fantastic post.

I used to be terrified of public speaking and now I love it. So it always pays to take a leap of faith and see what we're capable of.