Last week, our client Ethan was developing a story to open an important presentation. In our rehearsal, he began by describing the physical location, weather, and the background of the characters. Not only did this take nearly three minutes— his story had no forward motion.
When presenting any subject, a story can be compelling, but only if done well. Pacing and forward motion drives the narrative toward climax and resolution. However, if you don’t include this engine of action, you end up reporting on an event, which can leave the listener cold.
As you construct a client anecdote, briefly set the scene. Then raise the stakes. Don’t shy away from strong events or negative details. On our recommendation, Ethan eliminated much of the unnecessary context, and dove right in. His elderly mother was accompanying him on a walk but forgot her heart medication, the weather turned brutally hot, and there was no cell reception. By telegraphing an impending crisis, Ethan ignited the action. To engage, lift and carry an audience, start your engine, and keep the motor running until the finish.