Why the Best Speeches Are Stories

Last Updated Jan 4, 2008 7:39 PM EST

Why the Best Speeches Are StoriesThe media is buzzing today with talk of last night's Iowa caucuses. The coverage includes the obligatory handicapping of who's up and who's down, but nearly every political pundit and blogger also has something to say about the candidates' speeches. Whether you're particularly interested in politics or not, the candidates' performances in Iowa have something to teach business leaders about communication and public speaking.

So what's the take away? Bert Decker, executive coach and CEO of Decker communications, compiled his yearly list of the best and worst communicators on his blog this week and Mike Huckabee, the Republican victor in Iowa, took top honors. Why? Besides being open and authentic, he peppers his speeches with SHARPs: Stories, Humor, Analogies, References, Pictures. And if you want your speech to connect with a crowd, Decker urges, so should you.

Communication and Speech Coach, Nick Morgan, couldn't agree more, but he takes the focus on stories one step further. In an insightful interview with Management Consulting News, Morgan doesn't just advocate adding anecdotes here and there to spice up your speaking. He asserts, "your whole speech should mirror one of the great stories of our culture. The quest, or journey, is the primary story mode, and then there are four others." He contrasts a story speech with your typical PowerPoint presentation:

The transitions between the slides are awkward--the connections are missing. A speaker will say, "okay this slide is saying X," and will proceed to talk about that slide. Then he/she will switch to the next slide and, after a slight pause, will say, "okay this slide says Y." The speaker who does that is not telling us a story...
It may be difficult, but thinking of the totality of your speech as a story (as Obama did with his speech) can help you connect with your audience and perhaps even rouse them to action.

(Image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by e-strategy.com, CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.