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Tell Stories to Give Memorable Talks - Eamonn O'BrienTell stories in your speeches to become a memorable speaker — If you build talks around details instead of stories, expect your audiences to take frequent ‘mental holidays’ and remember precious little of what you say!

May I share a secret with you that’s a bit of a bust?

People don’t remember nearly as much as you might imagine. And this is especially true when it comes to details. Here’s why:

Your brain isn’t wired to help you.

Instead, as Dr. John Medina puts it so well in his book ‘Brain Rules’:

‘The brain remembers the emotional components of an experience…and focuses attention on the “gist” of an experience at the expense of the peripheral detail’

There’s a good reason why this is true. Given the limitations of your short term memory (which typically, in the face of epidemic levels of information overload, struggles to retain more than 5 to 6 things at a time these days), your instinct is to ignore the vast majority of information you encounter!

And because of these limitations, you’re incredibly selective about what information you listen to, never mind retain. If you weren’t, you’d never get anything done!

Why Audiences Struggle to Remember Detail – An Acid Test Exercise

If you’d like a personal glimpse into your own short term memory limitations, grab a pen and paper and have a bash at this question:

  • Thinking about yesterday (and only yesterday), how many new facts or details did you learn or absorb yesterday?
  • Now, just write down everything you remember.

How did that go? If you’ve little or nothing written on that page, you’re in good company. That’s going to be true for most people.

And there’s more. Thinking about the few things you could or did write down:

  1. Are they short hand versions of whatever came to mind versus something very precise? and
  2. As you remembered these things, did you form any mental pictures of what those facts or details mean to you?

Chances are, your answer will be yes on both counts — simply because ‘that’s how your memory works’.

You only remember what you can see. And the reason why things you recall don’t seem very exact to you is this: you don’t recall memories, you recreate them!

Of course, this begs a question: If people can’t remember details, what will they remember?

Why The Art of Storytelling is Vital in Business

The answer is humankind’s most powerful communication tool: Stories!

And it’s not hard to see why they are (and always have been) pivotal in how we share meaning and feelings with others. Check these out:

  • Most everyone loves to hear and to tell stories
  • Told well, they can capture and hold your attention at emotional levels
  • They can trigger oxytocin in your brain – which can cause you to place great trust in storytellers and to be more readily influenced by them.  (Paul J Zak)

In fact, given that fully 65% of your conversations revolve around personal stories and gossip (per Jeremy Hsu), is it any wonder that stories define and shape who you are and how you interact with others?

From cradle to grave, you rely on stories to discover ‘truths’ about your self-images, your relationships, how you should interpret the world around you, the underlying rationales for decisions you make (whether these result in actions or inactions), your purpose in life and more.

And that ‘truth’ bit is very important. Here’s why.

As Plato noted a few millennia ago:

“Is there anything more closely associated with wisdom than truth?”

And therein lies the true essence of why your stories are so important and should be given pride of place in every talk you give — not only do they win attention in a world of noise, they engender and earn trust.

And guess what moves the dial more than anything else when you want to influence or lead others?

Enough said. It’s time for your tips today.

5 Insights into Better Storytelling for Your Speeches

To learn more about how effective storytelling can transform your impact when giving business speeches, lean into today’s podcast – which is a recording of a speech I gave at the Bank of Ireland sponsored #TenTenTalks run by the Professional Speaking Association of Ireland in Dublin.

Listen in as I Explain:

  • A truth about why ‘the people you’d like to influence’ remember things (or not)
  • Why storytelling should be your go-to means of sharing feelings and meaning
  • The powerful transformations your audiences experience when you tell stories
  • Why your audience members’ ability to remember is in freefall and storytelling is the antidote
  • How effective storytelling helps audiences to remember what you say for the right reasons
  • And more

What’s Your Take on Using Storytelling in Your Business Speeches?

If your talks aren’t already story-centric, why not? What stops you from doing this?

If you like to tell stories in your speeches, what observations could you share about stories you find have the greatest resonace with your target audiences and/or what lessons have you learned about telling stories from the podium over the years?

If you’d like to become a powerful storyteller for your business or you’d like me to speak about storytelling at one of your events, contact me at – I’ll be delighted to help.