TELL A COMPELLING STORY
Speak In the Present Tense
Writing in the past tense can
create a very compelling story. As speakers, many of us
can tell a story in the past tense and still make it
compelling, but if you want to stand out as a speaker,
you’ll need to engage the audience better than other
speakers do, and an effective way to do this is by
telling your stories in the present tense.
In the summer of 2009, a very
sweet lady named Penny Lee attended an evening workshop
I was giving on public speaking and networking.
One of her assignments was to
come prepared to speak for two minutes about a
significant incident in her life.
Her speech began something like
this, “Three years ago, I was working with the ‘Party
Light’ gift company. I was really successful and sold
enough of the products to earn an award of ten-thousand
dollars. At the ceremony, they called me up onto the
stage to accept my award, and I was very emotional
because I realized that I was finally able to buy my
husband the motorcycle he always wanted.”
At this point, I asked her to
start her story over again, but to make two changes to
it. First, I asked her if she would tell the story in
the present tense, and second, I asked her to begin the
story as if she was hearing someone call for her to
come up to the stage.
This is roughly how her story was
told the second time, “The time is three years ago, and
I’m sitting in a huge crowd at a national convention for
the ‘Party Light’ gift company. I hear my name being
announced over the microphone and I’m called to the
stage. I walk onto the stage and notice a sea of faces
watching me as the host hands me an envelope with my
name on it.
I open the envelope and it
contains a check for ten thousand dollars! I was just
awarded this check as a bonus for my sales performance.
I hold the check in my hands, and
I’m feeling very proud, because I can finally buy my
husband that motorcycle he has always wanted but could
Penny Lee then broke into tears
of pride and joy right there in front of the class. As
she did, a hush came over the entire room and I could
see other students holding back their tears.
So, what’s the lesson? By taking
her story and telling it in the present tense, Penny Lee
was able to turn it into a magical experience for her