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How to Never Be Boring

Last night I had a EUREKA MOMENT.

As I prepare for my Story and Speaking workshop in NYC, I have been trying to figure out why some stories are so captivating -- and others have the same effect as Ambien.  I woke up at 4am with the answer.  Let me know if this makes sense to you.

We’ve all heard boring speakers drone on about the events in their life, sucking the life out of a room like an energy vampire.  Their story usually ends with a "Well, I guess you had to be there” moment.

But then you hear stories that make us lean in, put down our phones, and stop tweeting, because we don’t want to miss a word.  These are the stories that make us laugh, give us hope, and are more interesting than our friend’s latest FB status update.

What is the difference?  OK, before I tell you, let me tell you how I got this.

One of my clients was expressing their fear of forgetting their material.  I launched into a story about how I forgot a huge chunk of my speech at a very important gig.  I went into detail about what happened and my panic.  But, then I took a breath, made a joke about it, and everyone laughed.  My memory came back and from that point on, I had the audience in the palm of my hand.  Moral – sometimes when the worst happens, and we acknowledge it, we become more authentic, and a better speaker.

Are you seeing what a good story is?  You’re telling them every day.  A story is only good and relevant if it is told in REACTION to your AUDIENCE'S PROBLEM.  For instance, if a dear friend of yours is talking about how she lost her job, lost her lover, and is worried about her health -- most of us would tell a story along the lines of "I understand.  I was there where you are.  And I struggled.  And in the end, I found my true career, I found the love of my life, and I recovered my health."

These stories are never boring to the listener because the story is generated to GIVE hope, recovery, and inspiration.  The story is geared toward the listener's problem.  When the speaker’s story is motivated by empathy for the audience, it  naturally truncates the story because it makes the speaker focus on the MESSAGE rather than details motivated by narcissism.  When the motivation for telling the story of your life is because YOU think it’s interesting – you’re only telling it because of your own need for attention, approval, and laughs. You become a TAKER.  When the goal of your story is is to provide the troubled listener with a message of hope, you become a GIVER.

You can’t have a successful story without understanding the needs and problems of your listener.

Back in my blog, Get People to Love You in One Minute, I explain the exercise of actually interviewing audience members before you perform.

Stories can be a powerful form of communication in speaking, in business, and in your personal life -- if your approach is based on GIVING -- rather than TAKING.

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