Bedtime Stories Make You a Better Presenter

This nightly ritual is where we learn to embellish our delivery and focus on making the listener feel something emotionally through the intonation of our voice. It doesn’t matter whether we have read the story 500 times before. Our dramatic delivery of the content never flattens out, in fact, what probably delights your enrapt listener most is the consistency with which the dramatic parts are vocally highlighted.

Bedtime stories are an opportunity to convey information at a time when we are determined to generate a response from our listener: suspense, anticipation, tension and rejoicing. Think of how different the intonation in your voice is when you are building to a moment of dramatic suspense in a story, perhaps the part where the protagonist is struggling or in danger, as compared with the tone you employ to describe the happily-ever-after ending.

Human beings are inherent storytellers. We are hard wired to share and receive information this way. And yet, strangely, when we communicate in a professional setting, many of us shy away from stories. Perhaps we think storytelling is too soft an approach in the work place and that fire-hosing theories, facts and data comes across as more credible and more professional. But as reams of articles and books have attested to for many years, storytelling works. In fact, studies show that when you embed factual information within stories, your audience is 22-times more likely to remember it.

Now, I’m not suggesting that during our work presentations we speak to colleagues and clients like they’re five year olds. That would be unacceptably condescending. But in my 15+ years of coaching people on engaging public speaking techniques, the hurdle I find most difficult for clients to clear, is the proper use of storytelling and the best way to use your voice to deliver it.

Even if we do highlight anecdotal content in a speech or presentation, the pitch of our voices tends to flatten out and lose all emotion. That’s why it’s critical for the presenter to analyze the mood behind a particular sentence or thought. Are you describing a problem that must be overcome? If so, there should be a hint of frustration in your voice. Or perhaps you’re describing an effective way to overcome the very same problem. If so, there should be a tone of hopefulness and optimism. Think of your fluctuating voice pitch and intonation as a way to bold and underline your key emotional content.  What I often tell clients is that if they were speaking in a language I did not understand, I would still want to have a clear idea of when they were speaking about something positive or negative. Ultimately when we present, we are trying to make the audience feel something, inspire them to do something, not just inundate them with information. Vocal intonation is the best way to stir your audience.

Originally written by

Bill McGowan

Bill McGowan

CEO, Clarity Media Group Inc. Communications Consulting and Author of Pitch Perfect: How to Say it Right the First Time


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