3 ways how to come up with a great personal story for your talk

Sharing personal stories is one of the key elements of speaking with courage.  When you speak with courage, then your audience will respond to your message.

In order to be an effective speaker, you need to build rapport with the audience.  This means helping them to know, like and trust you. One of the most effective ways to do this is to share a personal story.  But how do you come up with a good story to share?

My top 3 tips will show you how

People might respect you for your achievements, but they will love you for your failures

We learn from our mistakes, so share your mistakes and what they taught you.  This will make you more approachable and relatable to the audience. A story where you are the fall guy rather than the hero is usually going to go down much better with the audience. Don’t forget to include what your learned from the experience.

Stories illustrate principles

The story itself does not need to make a precise point that you rely on in your talk, rather it needs to illustrate a principle that supports your talk. For example, when I speak about the need for clarity in your message, I tell a story about a life or death emergency in Spain when I did not know the Spanish words to tell anyone what I had seen.  I make the point that, no matter how important your message, if you can’t share it in a language your audience can understand then you will not be an effective communicator.  Phoning for a lifeboat in Spanish has nothing to do with public speaking, but the principle of being able to speak in a language the listener understands does.   Don’t try to think of a story that perfectly illustrates the topic of your talk, as it’s often hard to find one. Instead, consider the principle you are trying to illuminate and find a story that does just that.

Keep it short and informal

Your story should be short and to the point.  Remove all unnecessary detail. Simply say you were on holiday with friends, rather than naming the destination, each friend in turn and clarifying that two people were actually relatives of yours. All that detail is irrelevant to the principle you want to illustrate. Less is more.

When you share a story around the dinner table, you don’t need a script or PowerPoint deck. You simply say what happened in an informal and conversational way.  Do the same with your personal story in your presentation.  Keep it relaxed and informal, use your everyday language – not business speak.