(This is Part 3 in the Communicators University series. Read Part 2 here.)
You already know that you need to grab my attention within 90 seconds, and that I want you to speak inductively–thus keeping my attention throughout your presentation. Good speakers raise a “big question” toward the beginning of their talk…and over time they resolve that question with a “big idea”. Along the way, they’ll maintain my interest and bring clarity by illustrating their points. Watch listeners’ body language when even a snoozer says, “Let me try to illustrate this”. They’ll perk right up and give the speaker (another) a chance.
You’re not a snoozer, and you can excel if you illustrate well. There are tons of ways to do that, and in future posts I’ll comment on some of them, but for the most part I want you to start thinking of your personal stories. The bulk of the illustrative world can be accessed through the internet, but your stories are precious commodities which belong to you. (Until someone else repeats them by saying, “A friend of mine…”). The advantage of telling stories is that they are naturally inductive as long as you save the punch line for the end.
The best advice I can give you is to be aware of what happens to you and around you. You can pray about it, and you can keep a journal. Ask God to”show me my stories.” What happens in line at the coffee shop? At the game? While you were driving. What do you remember from your childhood, or high school, or college, or…? If you develop the habit of being aware, when something catches your attention you’ll immediately be asking what it illustrates, and how you might use it. You’ll be amazed at how well this works. When you’re in the process of creating a presentation, things will start to drop in on you. Really. I keep a list of power stories that can work in many situations. Just the other day I was presenting with a banking group, and the CEO used the phrase “True north.” When it came time for me to talk, I started by telling a story from my childhood about a true north mishap which happened when a blacktop contractor misread a blueprint for my basketball court. Boom!
Your Stories Matter
Each day you experience things that can illustrate teaching points. Let me illustrate that. (Ha! Gotcha!) I have a sister who is an exceptional public speaker, and she had invited a group of neighbor ladies to join her for discussion about life and the Bible. What to teach on? One day while walking her dog she noticed that this particular breed never looked up–into a tree, or anywhere. She said to herself, “My dog never looks up”, and it became the foundation to a message. That became the foundation to an entire series which she called “My Dog”. It was a real hit with her cohort. It should become a book, if you ask me.
Get it? Personal illustrations matter.