The Power of Storytelling | Analysis of Susan Cain’s TED Talk Opening

The best speakers are master storytellers. They tell touching tales, using compelling stories as a means to solidify their message. A well-told story will always be remembered. 

A story is a great way to open your speech, but it also works just as well as a closer. 

In fact, according to Bill Gove, the first president of the National Speakers Association, the essence of public speaking is to “tell a story, [and] make a point.”

Open Your Presentation with a Story

In her popular TED talk on the power of introverts, Susan Cain hooked her audience into her speech by immediately diving into a personal story:

“When I was nine years old I went off to summer camp for the first time. And my mother packed me a suitcase full of books, which to me seemed like a perfectly natural thing to do. Because in my family, reading was the primary group activity. And this might sound antisocial to you, but for us it was really just a different way of being social. You have the animal warmth of your family sitting right next to you, but you are also free to go roaming around the adventure-land inside your own mind. And I had this idea that camp was going to be just like this, but better…”]

See, you’re curious to find out more about her camping experience, aren’t you? 

So, why do stories work so well?

1. Stories are captivating

Everyone loves a good story, so starting with a story will capture your audience’s attention. The moment you begin with a story, your audience will have no choice but to tune in.

2. Stories create connections between the listeners and the speaker

A personal story will arouse emotions in the listeners. 

Studies have shown that our brains cannot tell the difference between “real” events and imagined events. 

Therefore, when you tell a story, your audience will imagine it and “feel” the same emotions that you’re describing. Your story will not be forgotten because your audience will “experience” it rather than just hear it.

3. Stories are Memorable

We are hard-wired to learn through stories. 

Scientific research has shown that we make sense of the world through stories. 

People even view their lives as a story, with a beginning, a middle and an end, and with each new experience being regarded as a “new chapter” in their lives. Because of this natural hard-wiring, we may forget statistics and fancy charts, but we will always remember a good story.

Use a Story to Open Your Next Speech or Presentation

Since stories are a great tool for captivating people, creating a connection and increasing retention, try weaving one in during your next speech or presentation. Even better, use it to open your presentation and captivate your audience within the very first minute of your talk.

What to Read Next

Want to learn exactly how to tell persuasive and powerful stories? Then check out the 5 elements of great storytelling for an in-depth look at how to craft compelling stories. And if you’d like to grab my free 7-part storytelling eCourse, then enter your name and email below to get acccess.

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