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From the desk of Steve Lowell, Master Speaker and Mentor to those who speak in public.

The SPICE Formula of Sensational Speaking

P Is for Personalize

In early 2010, a nice English lady named Julia came to see me and wanted help overcoming her fear of speaking in public. She was in her forties, and was an individual so uncomfortable when speaking in public that even standing up and giving her name was difficult for her.

I encouraged her to attend my eight-week course called “The Creating Confidence Course,” which she did. In the fifth session of the course, Julia was giving her assigned talk. I watched the reactions of the class members, and I could clearly see that Julia had the undivided attention of every other student in the class. She had succeeded in getting the entire class in the palm of her hand.

Her two-minute talk included a personal story that captured the imagination of the entire audience. A few months later, I called Julia and told her I was giving a presentation about using personal examples while speaking, and I asked for her permission to use her speech to the class that day as an example. Julia graciously offered to come and give that talk herself, so I was thrilled to have her join me for my presentation.

I began the presentation by addressing the audience, who were numbering around seventy-five, and telling them about the power of including a personal story in a speech, and when the appropriate time came, I introduced Julia.

Now, an audience of seventy-five people isn’t a large audience for some speakers, but for Julia it was huge!

Julia walked up to the front of the room and began to speak. In less than one full minute, Julia explained how she was sitting in a hair salon looking at her image in the mirror and feeling like it was the worst day of her life.

She went on to explain that she had recently lost her hair.

“Not some of my hair.” Julia explained, “ALL of my hair!” And with those words, Julia reached up and pulled off her wig and stood before the entire room completely bald.

She then went on to explain how she has learned to accept, to live with and even to honor her illness.

At the conclusion of her speech, she briefly turned away from the audience to place her wig back on her head. As she turned to face the audience again, she had to bring her hands up to her face and she wept with surprise at the standing ovation she had elicited from a speech that had lasted less than one minute.

Julia could have spoken about the illness. She could have told the audience about the statistics, the cause of the illness, the treatments and all of the other available information about the illness. Instead, she chose to provide a personal example of her own experience in dealing with the illness and, as a result, she provided more than a speech. She provided a one-minute experience that no one in that room will soon forget!

That’s the power of a personal story!

Of course, not all of us have as profound a story to tell as Julia’s, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a story to tell which can profoundly affect our audience.

Personal stories are like glue to a speech or presentation, if the stories are well told. They bind the pieces together and give your audience some points of reference to make the material relevant to their own lives. They also provide you with evidence that supports your qualification to speak about the topic.

So, what’s the lesson? A well-told personal account that’s relevant to the topic being covered can add tremendous value and impact to your speech.

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