Tell Me a Story

Tell Me a Story

Presentation Skills are not just for dress-up. We can trot them out for any communication event. In fact, putting those skills to use can elevate just about any speaking opportunity to near greatness, and your listeners will be grateful.

Let’s consider the first, and most important presentation skills rule: Know what your audience wants, and know what you want your audience to do.

Alistair says, “So, tell me about your meeting with the director.”

Giles is delighted to begin: “Well, I wanted to get there early, so I said to the cab driver, ‘Can you take the Regal Highway?’ and he said, ‘Oh I’m so sorry but there was a backup earlier on 41, which always causes trouble on the Regal,” so I said, “Wow- I’m so glad you’re aware of the traffic patterns,” because, you know, some drivers just aren’t, so……”

If you’re Alistair, is this what you had in mind?

Giles is doing what many of us do: following the trail suggested by the trigger invitation. To Giles, the invitation “Tell me about your meeting….” calls forth his story, and his story begins when he starts his journey. Maybe Alistair should be grateful that Giles didn’t replay his search for a cab. Or his indecision about which shirt to wear.

By the time Giles gets to the actual meeting, Alistair will be finished listening.

Following the presentation skills rule – know what your audience wants – Giles might think as follows:

“Alistair probably wants to know the outcome of the meeting. Or Alistair is just being polite and doesn’t really care. Or Alistair wants some gossipy details.”

Then, if Giles thinks further to what he wants Alistair to do with the information, he might think as follows:

“I want Alistair to know how brilliantly I handled the meeting. Or: I want Alistair to stop poking into my business. Or: I want Alistair to be reassured that no problems lie ahead. Or: I want to entertain Alistair with silly observations. Or: I want to keep Alistair in the dark about that meeting.”

Or, Giles might not have any idea what’s up with Alistair.

In any case, if Giles thinks before he speaks he is likely to give a response that doesn’t begin with his cab ride, and doesn’t remind Alistair not to ask him about anything else. Ever again.


How do you answer your invitations? What happens when you hear these triggers?

– Tell me about your job search.

– How was the visit with your aunt?

– Have you found a replacement for Hortencia?

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