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Story Opener

 

Techniques Public speaking > Parts of the Presentation > Story Opener

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Start with a story. If you can, make it personal, talking about yourself and something you have done. Another alternative is to use a recent news story but adding in detail the audience is unlikely to know. You can also make up a story, although it must resonate with the audience and feel real to them.

Tell the story like a storyteller, adding emphasis and your whole body to show your involvement in it an so invite your audience to join you.

One way of breaking the ice with a tense or uncertain audience is to tell a funny story. As with any story, this can be about yourself, something in the news or even a simple joke. Be careful not to offend anyone or otherwise put yourself in a bad light.

A useful form of story is the parable or fable, both of which is are terse teaching tales that can be told easily and quickly.

Example

You may have heard the story recently about a fireman who saved a young family from a house fire on his day off. But did you know that this is not the first time he has taken spontaneous heroic action? Last year he tackled a robber at a store. He also coaches a community football team and helps out at the local old folks home. He is not alone. We are surrounded by heroes! You don't have to save lives to be a hero.

Discussion

We think in stories when we tell our selves about our lives and the events around us. Stories are natural narrative devices that help us make sense of the world. Using a story is therefore a way of making it easy for the audience to bond with you.

Real stories are often the easiest way to communicate and are always credible as they are, of course, true. You can also use fantasy and fiction to make allegorical points. Fantastic stories are clearly untrue (and say 'I am not trying to decieve you by pretending it is true') and are therefore permissible. The trickier water is where you tell a story that seems real but may not be true.

Particular classic types of story plot can be useful in telling particular tales, for example using a 'stranger in a strange land' scenario to illustrate a context of business change.

Using humor helps break the ice and making fun of yourself portrays you as someone who is comfortable in their own skin and, by association, comfortable with your audience and your subject. Be careful with this not to make yourself look incompetent in ways that might damage your credibility.

You can also consider linking the initial story with storytelling within the presentation, for example continuing the story in the main body of the speech or harking back to the opening story.

See also

Storytelling

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