Make audience active participants in your stories

For story oomph – Don’t give audiences ring-side seats, give’em parts

Make audience active participants in your stories

The great American author Mark Twain liked to say to would be writers of novels:

“Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.”

That’s super advice for any storyteller, including those who need to favour real ahead of fictional fare when speaking to business audiences.

As a speaker, you never want your audience to react passively to your stories by just sharing a sequence of events – that’s just telling folks stuff…

…If you want everyone on board, connected and keen as mustard to know what happens next, here are 3 simple ideas that’ll help you ‘invite your audiences in’:

#1: Think personal

Avoid top-line stories where specific things don’t happen to specific people. If your audience can’t see, feel, care about and, better still, learn from what happens in your story at a personally relatable level, they’ll have little reason to remember what you say or get much from it.

#2: Think action and reaction

Put your audiences into situations instead of describing them by paying more attention to character actions and reactions versus narrating a ‘then and then’ tale. The former is far more immersive than the latter.

#3: Let your audience fill in gaps (especially emotional ones)

Don’t over-tell your story with every last detail you can think of. It pays to give audience members a chance to fill in gaps in your story…Where they fill in the blanks between what you say and what they know or believe. And that’s because they’re far more likely to ‘internalise’ and care about what they experience during a story where they’re part authors of it!

Remember: The more you enlist audience members to feel like they’re ‘active participants’ in your stories, the more rewarding, inspiring and memorable they’ll find your words.

Photo credit: Stuart Chalmers (


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