• What’s the story?

    Make a point, tell a story; tell a story, make a point. That’s an easy enough mantra to follow in speeches and presentations, but what kind of story should you tell?

    The three factors that work in story telling are:

    1. They illustrate the point and are easy to understand and remember
    2. We are all conditioned, from childhood, to like stories
    3. They can connect with your listeners’ backgrounds

    The first two are fairly obvious, but the third one often surprises people when I raise it during my training courses. Backgrounds?

    Let’s take an extreme example, just to make the point. Suppose you are pitching to the owner of a small business. Did you stop to consider why he started that business? One such small business owner told me, only the other day, “I started this business because no one would give me a job.”

    Another (geeky) micro business owner told me his technical expertise is such that he is always in demand, and he doesn’t have to market himself.

    For people like them, you may want to avoid stories about gregarious situations and talk, instead, about self sufficiency and the virtues of independence. Talk about the injustice of bureaucracy and the triumph of the ‘small’ over the ‘large’.

    At the same time, be aware of your own background story, and avoid pleading your own position. Remember, the main purpose of the story is to advance your business case, not to entertain or to beat the drum of self interest.

    Think about how movies can touch your own emotions. That’s the power of story telling. Go ye and do likewise.

    Comments Off on What’s the story?
  • Carrying the bride over the threshold

    Carrying the bride across the threshold is a common practice, not only in the English speaking world, but in many other countries as well. To understand this you need to go back to the origin of the threshold itself.

    In ancient times, most houses had mud floors which would get slippery and messy from the rain water that was carried in on the shoes and boots of people going in and out of the house. To counter this, straw (thresh) was laid on the floor. Inevitably, the thresh would spread and creep through the doorway, so a wooden bar was laid across the doorway to hold back the thresh, hence threshold.

    On entering her new home, the bride had to be careful not to trip or stumble on the threshold, as that was a bad omen, signifying that the marriage itself would fail. To avoid this, the groom would pick up his bride and carry her safely over the threshold.

    It apparently did not matter if he tripped over his own threshold.

    Of course, there were dangers, as when the bride was heavier than the groom, and it could be that some negotiation had to take place.

    So the practice of carrying the bride over the threshold was by no means either obligatory or universal. However, it did add a gallant touch to the end of a wonderful day.

    There is another version of the origin of this practice. In Roman times, a bride had to demonstrate her reluctance to surrender her virginity. So she had to be carried over the threshold, lest she should run away.

    She may not have been reluctant at all, but it was necessary, for the sake of decorum, to pretend!

    There will be more stories of myths, legends and customs here, if you keep looking. Meanwhile, if you’d like help with a speech (for a wedding or any other occasion), drop a line to phillip@speakingandpresentationskills.com.


    Comments Off on Carrying the bride over the threshold
  • Old wedding customs 1

    There are many old customs attached to the marriage ceremony, and I thought I’d share some with you.

    This one is about the bride’s garter.

    To this day it is quite common for the bride, at the reception, to raise her skirt and remove a ceremonial garter from the top of her white stockings. It clearly has a sexual meaning and originated in English North Country weddings, where the garter was removed by guests who raced to be the first to do so as soon as the bride had been taken home to be bedded.

    The young swains would leap opn their horses and race to the bride’s new home, where the winner would kneel at the doorway, awaiting the bride’s arrival. She would raise her skirt and allow him to remove the garter, sometimes with his teeth, encouraging him to hand it to his own sweetheart for good fortune in love.

    In the 17th century, just as the bride was being prepared for bed by her maids, the groomsmen would burst into the bridal chamber and snatch any garter they could from the bridesmaids.

    By the 19th century, only the groom was entitled to remove the garter, which he then offered as a prize in a horserace run by the groomsmen.

    Watch this space tomorrw for the next wedding custom. And for help with a wedding speech, write to phillip@speakingandpresentationskills.com.

    Comments Off on Old wedding customs 1