How do you feel when you look outside and see a perfect blanket of new-fallen snow? It can be beautiful. It is something special. Growing up in New England, I remember it as one of my favorite things to see. I felt it was magical, at least for a day or so until the snowplows came by and disrupted the blanket. They cleared the roads and piled up the snow into huge, compact banks of snow along the road. When the snow started melting, of course, it was not so beautiful, and when the warmer weather came, the grass and streets started dominating the scenery again.
When you and I are listening to a great presentation, we love all of it. We even love the anticipation of it. It can be exciting to look forward to hearing a great presenter. I remember getting ready to hear Les Brown speak. All day we waited to hear the master himself. While he was on stage, the audience hung on every word. Every one of his pauses and laughs were beautiful. In that moment, the whole day was like new-fallen snow. Loved it.
Even when he told a story I had heard before, I still found myself enjoying hearing it again. It was a great story in the hands of a great storyteller. Reflecting on it now, I realize that I even recalled stories I had heard him tell in the past that he did not share that day. Great stories are like snow banks. They last much longer than the rest of the snow. In fact, they can be seen much later into the spring, and we forget about the rest of the ground’s being covered. Why? Because they are focused, concentrated, and packed.
So, what does this mean to you? Speech structure is important. Getting to know your audience ahead of time is important. Creating a connection with your audience is essential. Building the bridge between your content and the audience’s world is crucial. What, however, is most important? Your stories are most important. They are like the snow banks in the spring. If they are great stories, they are the part of your presentation that will linger in your audience’s heart the longest.
Because we know our stories, we sometimes take for granted their power. We think they are good enough so we focus our attention and energy on the other parts of preparing. We need to realize that if we care about the lasting impression we have on our audiences, we are never finished working on our stories. Great stories aren’t written; they are re-written. They become greater the more we pack them, the more concentrated they become. Great stories require focus. They evolve over time. The tighter we make our stories, the longer they will likely last in our audience’s minds and hearts.
I challenge you to record one of your live presentations and then go back and listen to the recording. Don’t just listen though. Listen with this question in mind: “How can I make it stronger and tighter?” You don’t want just to make your stories shorter. If you want them to last longer, they need to be tighter. If you discover any slow spots, either enhance them or cut that part. When working on improving my contest speech, I asked myself, “How do I say it better in fewer words?” If you ask better questions, you’ll get better results. There are no extra words in great stories. Every word and pause either adds or detracts; there is no middle ground. They are concentrated and packed tight.
Here is an awesome side effect to focusing on improving your stories: When you do come up with a new idea to try, you will get excited. When you are excited about a classic story of yours, your delivery of that story will instantly be improved. Get excited about your classic stories all over again. When you create a habit of improving, that will enhance the speed and depth of the new stories you create as well.
Whether it is a one-on-one conversation or a formal presentation, everyone loves a great story. Your stories are like snow banks. The question is how deep, concentrated, and packed are they? Great stories well-told will last much longer in the hearts and minds of your audience. Will your stories last well into the spring?
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