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Have you ever wondered why your brain is more predisposed to remember and take lessons from dangerous experiences you encounter during life than other stuff that comes your way?
To learn why, let’s take a look at a recent case in point:
Why Near-Miss Stories Get Remembered And Shared
Des, a friend of mine in Donegal, had quite the experience recently.
When driving home on a windy day with his teenager daughter, who was talking excitedly about how her team had just won a County final, Des was enjoying their chat and driving at a leisurely 65 km/ hour on a road where most folks drive at 100 km/hour.
All of a sudden, his daughter interrupted their conversation and pointing ahead warned: “That tree looks really weird dad.”
Des looked up and realised they were almost upon a tree that was bending over dangerously, far too far over the road. And while he didn’t see or hear the cracks, he instinctively believed 2 things were true: “that tree is about to snap in two”, and “It’ll crush us if I hit it”…
…And in the same moment, when miraculously it seemed everything was happening in slow motion, Des also remembered thinking: “Now what? Are you going to floor the accelerator and try to get past the tree Des or swerve?”
His instinct made the choice. He slammed on his break and swerved right…hard! And it mostly worked. The full force of the tree hit the car right on the apex between the top of his windscreen and the left corner of his car frame. His daughter screamed, the car began to spin, but somehow, someway he managed to come to a halt inches before careering into a deep ditch.
His gut reaction had been the right one. If he had tried to get past the tree, they would have been toast. If they hadn’t been hit by the tree at that exact spot and angle on the car – which turned out the single strongest point to withstand the blow – they would have been toast.
They were lucky they survived. And as a policeman who came to the scene later said, Des’s quick thinking and lack of speed had made all the difference…as had the sheer fortune that no other cars were around at that exact time either. Destiny had intervened and pure carnage was avoided.
So the day was saved but I have a question: What do you think the chances are that Des will forget that experience in a hurry?
That incident has now been etched into his brain, viscerally. And there’s more…
…Humans are also hard-wired to do two things after surviving a near miss experience:
Learn from how you handled that trauma (which you’ll store in your brain so you’ll be better equipped to deal with similar situations in the future – notwithstanding the fact that memories from trauma are commonly far from perfect), and
Share stories about what happened to you with others. And the latter is because, as Dr Sherry Hamby put it in Psychology Today, it’s quite healing for you to have a chance to pass on your new found wisdom to others
Most Lessons in Life Come From Stories You Experience or Hear
And as a grateful recipient of Des’s cautionary tale, I feel better off too.
Even though I didn’t experience what he did directly, I did experience it vicariously. I recreated all the scenes Des described in my brain as he spoke and imagined what I might have done had I been in his shoes. And I also especially wondered how I would have felt if my kids were in the car with me as well.
And, I’ve taken some lessons from Des’s experiences too. I’ll remember his tale every time I take that road and be minded to slow down (or better still, avoid heavily wooded roads when it’s super-windy).
Let’s say you’d like to give a story-centric speech, because you know stories are far and away the most powerful means for a speaker to connect with audiences at an emotional level (true that!) — But you’re only expected to speak for just a few moment and don’t believe you’ll have time to squeeze in a story or to do it justice.
What should you do?
And as you think about this, bear in mind the legendary screenwriter Robert McKee’s opinion:
“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world.”
Amen. He’s right.
And while there are many other ways to help an audience to see, experience and get excited by your ideas, the truth is: none of these other options is as powerful as a well-told story when it comes to sharing a core message you need to land and to be remembered.
Well, not quite. I bear good news. You don’t have to compromise (much).
There’s a hybrid option you could consider and that’s exactly what I speak about in today’s video.
An Awesome Alternative to Stories Every Speaker Should Know About
Lean in to learn more…
9 July 2018 - YouTube
Want to Take Your Business Storytelling Skills to the Next Level?
If you’d like help to master the art of high impact corporate storytelling, contact me at email@example.com – I’ll be delighted to hear from you.
Inspiration for public speaking tips I share can sometimes come from peculiar places! Here’s a for instance:
You’d have had to be living under a rock not to know about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s fairy-tale wedding last weekend. And while I wasn’t one of the reported one billion folks who tuned in to watch the pageantry, pomp and glamour of their big day, my missus Mindy saw the whole thing and loved it.
So what did you think were the best things from the day? I asked her (hours after the fact).
Oh, that’s easy. Said Mindy
Meghan’s frock was fabulous — so simple and elegant.
And, even though it should have been shorter, I loved Bishop Michael Curry of Chicago’s homily — it was refreshingly human
Judging by the highlights I saw later in the day, that was a perfect summary of the event and I was especially struck by two of the phrases Mindy used: ‘simple and elegant’ and ‘refreshingly human’…
…Hmm. Now those are things you should want said of any talk you give. Here’s why:
Why Embracing Simplicity and Being Human is a Winning Formula for Speakers
#1 – Simplicity is powerful and attractive
If you go into most any successful, high end clothing store there’s something you won’t find: clutter!
In fact, their store designers go to great trouble to make sure they highlight wares in ways that you can instantly see and value them in their best light (without having to root through a bazillion rails to find something that might, just might, catch your eye or being distracted by competing garments).
And it’s not just purveyors of haut couture who have long understood the power of simplifiation…
…The late CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, had only one sign in his office with the following words penned by Leonardo di Vinci: Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
As far as Steve was concerned, these were words he wanted to true of be of every product Apple sold. He succeeded and, to this day, that mentality is still a demonstrably good plan.
And as a speaker, here’s why having a relentless focus on simplicity pays:
It helps you to only focus on what your audience will care about most and find attractive
You and your audience will experience less distraction when you share your powerful message
Plus, you’ll make your audience’s job and your job, as a communicator, easier if only have to remember one message and concentrate all your efforts on helping the power of that message to shine through.
#2 Sharing your humanity will earn you greater trust
The day after the royal wedding, I made it my business to go back and watch a video of Bishop Curry’s homily – as I was especially interested in why my missus found his words so appealing.
And while I’m not going to critique the speech (which was indeed too long) – there are a number of things he did that made his speech feel so relatable.
In addition to: a) speaking to a single, core theme (ie ‘why you should seek to discover the redemptive power of love’), and b) finding ways to challenge his audience…
…he also achieved connection with his audience by exuding presence, passion and plain language.
In doing the latter he shared his essence and vulnerability – which was wonderfully human.
And the reason this matters?
The more human an audience finds you, the more trust they’ll place in you and your messages.
With that said, and in case you’re curious about what the good Bishop had to say, here’s his homily:
Love is the way | Bishop Michael Curry's captivating sermon - The Royal Wedding - BBC - YouTube
Over to You
What lessons would you draw from speakers who have most inspired you over time?
There’s a good reason why speakers who focus on influence ahead of directing audiences have greater appeal and impact.
That’s because, as author and management expert Ken Balchard puts it so well:
The key to succesful leadership today is influence, not authority.
And the same is true when it comes to being perceived as a thought leader.
Of course, that can seem easier said than done.
And while most everyone, likely including you, would say “Yes please, I’d love to feel I could score more highly on influence when speaking”…
…Wouldn’t it be nice to get some advice from someone who can help you make this happen at speed?
If you said yes, you’re in luck as I recently discussed this exact topic with international expert on how to become a key person of influence plus successful entrepreneur, speaker, event organiser and founder of Dent, Daniel Priestley.
5 Ideas to Help You Become a More In-Demand and Inspiring Speaker
Lean in as we discuss:
The single most important audience you need to delight to boost your speaker impact
Why it pays to make it easy for others to more fully leverage your non speaking content
Reasons you want speaker bookers to know precisely why they should choose you ahead of others
Four things the world’s most inspiring speakers are known for…and you should want said of you
One thing you need to do to influence speaker bookers thinking of hiring you for their events
In the Market for a Speaker Impact and Influence Upgrade?
If you’d like to learn how to speak more clarity, confidence and persuasion, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be delighted to help you.
How do you get your head into the right place to pen inspiring speeches or presentations?
I found myself thinking about this question last weekend while on a romantic weekend away with my missus in the gorgeous county of Kerry and taking in the breathtaking coastal views on the road from Sneem to Waterville.
Now I know what you’re thinking:
Seriously Eamonn, that’s sad. So, you’re on a break with your wonderful wife in ‘the Kingdom’, driving along the famed Ring of Kerry, and, since you could see just how fabulous and jaw-droppingly gorgeous everything is, it clearly wasn’t raining…
…And, with all that in view, you start thinking about making speeches! Sheesh!
To be fair, I wasn’t thinking about talks until my wife spotted one of the many little brown signs in Ireland that indicate there’s something nearby that may be of historical or touristic interest.
‘Derrynane Estate’, Mused my missus. “Of course, you know who lived there as a kid, inherited it from his rich uncle, and spent most all his summers here?
I shook my head. I didn’t have a clue.
“Ha”, says my missus, grinning from ear to ear. “I thought you were Mr History. Looks like I know some stuff you don’t. That was Daniel O’Connell’s family estate.”
I was delighted:
That my wife knew this about one of Ireland’s most lauded of Irish political leaders and patriots during the first half of the 1800s – a man who, in my view, was one the very best orators Ireland ever produced.
As a quick aside for those who don’t know much about Daniel O’Connell. He was an accomplished barrister who become known as ‘the Liberator’ in Irish history books. Using powerful arguments well delivered he won Catholic Emancipation and many other rights for the people of Ireland in the British parliament over roughly 4 decades. And, like Gahndi a century later, he decried violence as a means of progressing political progress and illustrated instead how much can be done through persuasive words and persistance.
And even better, having happened upon this place by chance, we had oodles of time to check it out
And while I loved having the opportunity to revisit many things I knew about his life and times plus learn many new things about his childhood, his marriage, and how his anti-violence stance had been influenced by what he saw and experienced in the lead up to and then during the bloody French revolution, that wasn’t the most interesting thing I discovered that morning.
How Your Setting Can Influence Your Ability to Pen Inspired and Inspiring Words
Rather, I was thrilled to learn where he wrote many of his great speeches – because there was a lesson in this.
Check out this little hut above, which was the equivalent of a garden office (or as we call it, after a popular brand name, a ‘Seomra’ in Ireland) that’s right beside his fine mansion and posh house extensions.
In common with Roald Dahl, Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw and many other famous coiners of words, he escaped from his house and other regular places of work to find a great spot for thinking and writing.
And honestly, that wasn’t just a great idea for him…It’s likely a great notion for you too. Here’s why.
As I mentioneded in an article some time ago on on how to beat writer’s block: Finding somewhere where you have less distractions and feel comfortable is the one the best things you can do to craft more inspiring words. And that’s because it’s easier to free up your mind and thoughts if you “create an environment where you have the opportunity to be both focused and more relaxed”
For me, when writing an outline for a speech or blog post, I like the JK Rowling approach of being in a cafe in a comfy chair, with a cup of coffee at hand and my phone switched to ‘off’, and the knowledge that no one can find or interupt me until my writing is done and I choose to surface again.
What About You?
Where’s the spot where you do your most inspired writing?