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Tell stories in four chapters

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

Great speakers tell great stories. When you illustrate your key themes with vivid, visually arresting anecdotes that capture a specific time, place and activity, you help listeners appreciate your main point.

To weave a story into your next speech, start by breaking it into four parts. First, introduce it by succinctly describing the setting. Just as classic fairy tales begin with “Once upon a time,” you want to create a backdrop that everyone can understand and picture in their mind.

Second, insert a problem or challenge that the main character faces. Transition to this chapter by using phrases such as, “Suddenly …” or “Then something disturbing occurred.”

At this point, your listeners should be hanging on every word. They want to know how the story ends—or at least how the hero conquers or addresses the problem.

Third, present the solution. Shift gears from describing the problem to narrating what actions brought about a better outcome. Use phrases such as “Luckily” or “Quick thinking came in handy when …”

Conclude by providing a “happily ever after” summary. Cite convincing evidence that implementing the solution produced its intended purpose.

Ideally, you’ve guided the audience through a brief but compelling adventure where they gained a better understanding of how to grapple with an easily identifiable problem. The best conclusions allow them to decide for themselves what lessons to extract from your story. That saves you from lecturing them.

If you want an abbreviation to help you remember these four stages, try IPSS: Introduction, Problem, Solution, Summary.

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