public speaking

The secret to getting attention

There was a small crowd filling the pavement of the Calcutta street, surrounding two men who squatted face to face at the centre. The bearded one was reading the palm of the other and gabbling in a musical baritone. The audience were enthralled. I listened for a while and realised what was so compelling about what he was saying.

Fade in a different scene. This time it was myself, aged 14, on board the ferry that took the school party from the broad gauge terminus on the banks of the Ganges, up river to where we would pick up the metre gauge train on our way to Siliguri and then Darjeeling.

I sat on my suitcase, surrounded by a small group of younger boys who hung on my every word, and I recalled the Calcutta scene. So what did the bearded man and I have in common? We both told stories.

In New Guinea story telling is a way of life. Knowledge is passed on from generation to generation through stories. In United States, one of the most popular comedians is Bill Cosby, whose monologue routine consists of such hilarious stories as “Noah”.

It’s not just the stories themselves, but the story telling – to coin a phrase, it’s the way you tell ’em.

In your speeches and presentations, weave your messages into stories and you will get and hold the attention of your listeners. And you’ll make the message more accessible.

One more thought: consider them to be your listeners, rather than your audience, and you’ll be on the right track.