Public Speaking: The Power of Storytelling

Public speaking is one of the most important forms of communication. It allows the presenter to stand up in front of an audience to create awareness, form connections, influence decisions, and motivate change. This activity can range from a presentation at a formal conference with a large audience, to a small pitch being made to a group of colleagues who you are hoping to win over.

While many people do public speaking, a good percentage of these presentations fall short of reaching their full impact or potential. The reason for this is that most people mimic a traditional presentation style and approach. They use a series of PowerPoint slides to simply rattle off facts, figures and basic information. While these presentations may have some value, many often fall short of really informing and influencing an audience. We have all experienced presentations that are long, tedious and boring.  Sadly, this is often the norm, not the exception.

One effective way to add significant value to a presentation is to include interesting stories. Storytelling represents a traditional form of communication that has existed from the beginning of human-time.  There is something about a story that ties a series of events, actions and outcomes together in a way that provides true clarity and meaning.  We relate to stories because our lives are made up of them.  Whenever we describe an event in our own lives, we often use storytelling to do so.  In this way, this form of expression is very familiar to us all.

Following years of offering a traditional presentation style, I came to realize that I held an audience’s attention more when I was telling a story than when I was simply lecturing.  Armed with this insight, I began to experiment. Instead of offering basic information, I started using stories to communicate my content.  In fact, my most effective keynote speech represents ten consecutive stories linked together to illustrate a final unifying, inspirational message.  As a person who has lived and worked in over 40 countries and focused much of my professional career on the issues of human trafficking, public health, and poverty alleviation, I have seen and experienced many amazing things that can keep an audience on the edge of their chairs. 

If you are looking for an inspirational public speaker who uses storytelling to convey a message, please consider booking me for your next keynote speech.  Your audience will walk away feeling motivated, inspired and changed.

Published by Matthew S. Friedman & Sylvia Yu Friedman

Matthew Friedman is an international keynote speaker, the CEO of The Mekong Club, and a former United Nations and U.S. diplomat. A leading global expert on modern slavery, Friedman has more than 30 years of experience as an inspirational and motivational public speaker. Check out his latest powerful Penguin Random House memoir, Where Were You? A Profile of Modern Slavery. Sylvia Yu Friedman is an award-winning filmmaker, investigative journalist, international speaker, serial entrepreneur, and advisor to philanthropists. She is the author of three books: A Long Road to Justice: Stories from the Frontlines in Asia (Penguin Random House); Silenced No More: Voices of Comfort Women, the only journalistic account of Japanese military sex slavery during the Second World War, and Heart and Soul: The Life Story of Pastor Augustus Chao. Sylvia is a serial entrepreneur and works with family offices in Asia and the U.S.

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