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6 Tips for Engaging your Audience with Storytelling

Posted by Marsha Weisleder on 7/25/16 8:00 AM
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Some of the world’s best speakers get invited to a yearly conference known as TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. In 2012, Bryan Stevenson, a civil rights attorney, got the longest standing ovation in TED history. The attendees also donated $1 million to his nonprofit group. So, what was his secret? How was he able to achieve this?


Here’s the most exciting part! There were no visuals, slides, or props. He spent 65% of his presentation telling stories. Yes, stories. He was able to connect with his audience and keep them spellbound as he appealed to their heads and their hearts.


At Langevin, we also know the benefits of stories and discuss them in depth in our How Adults Learn workshop. Stories trigger the senses and help your learners acquire, store, and retrieve information with greater ease. Studies have proven that learners make fewer conceptual and technical errors when they are told stories, metaphors, and analogies. They are more capable of applying the concepts to novel situations and have a more tangible grasp of the information. I think we’re convinced, right?


Here are six tips for engaging your audience with storytelling:

1. Determine the method for delivery.

  • Read it straight from the text.
  • Retell it in your own words.
  • Ask participants to read the text.


2. Establish rapport with your audience.

  • Identify the specific positive behavior you wish to trigger in your audience.
  • Be flexible in your behavior. Make subtle changes to your voice, stance, gestures, posture, or eye contact. Cut the story short, exaggerate it, or involve your audience.


3. Use an appropriate tone of voice.

  • Remember, you're not talking to children. In adult storytelling, the variations of voice range are subtler than in children's storytelling.


4. Pace your voice.

  • A humorous anecdote is best told with an up-beat tempo, while an inspirational or thought provoking tale is best told at a slower pace.
  • Change pace during the story, if that's appropriate.
  • Rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse to ensure you have the emphasis at the right spots.


5. Control the volume of your voice.

  • Vary the volume. Dropping the level can encourage more attentive listening. Raising the volume from time to time is a great, dramatic ploy when it's not overused or too extreme of a change.


6. Pay attention to your non-verbal communication.

  • Use gestures subtly and infrequently to make them more effective and noticeable.


For more tips on stories and how to connect with your audience, check out our How Adults Learn workshop. Who knows, maybe you’ll get that standing ovation too!


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Marsha has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience. She went on to attend Osgoode Hall Law School and practiced civil litigation for a few years. While working for a company as their in-house legal counsel, Marsha fell into a training position and never looked back! Each day, Marsha brings passion and excitement to her workshops, always encouraging her participants to find their own passion as well. Outside of the classroom, Marsha loves to spend time with her family, travel, and stay active. Of course her main obsession is Elvis! Some people might think she’s a little over-the-top about him, but doesn’t everyone have an Elvis shrine in their home? Maybe not…

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Our very own world-class course leaders share their experiences, tips, best practices, and expertise on virtual training, instructional design, needs analysis, e-learning, delivery, evaluation, presentation skills, facilitation, and much more!

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