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Public speaking tip: Don’t throw too much stuff at your audience

Have you ever heard a speaker say this?

“Today I’m going to share a lot of information with you about Topic X, and I apologize in advance for throwing so much stuff at you all at once – but it’s all very important.”

Yikes.

Sharing a lot of “stuff” without a clear message or main point is never recommended.

I recently wrote a keynote launching a major change at a national organization. The change would be disruptive, and if people weren’t on board, the initiative would fail.

At first, the client wanted to provide mountains of evidence justifying the change – enough, he said, to frighten people into making the change.

But my approach was a little different.

I suggested we write the entire speech as a “Stranger in a Strange Land” story, one of five basic archetypal stories, according to communication theorist and coach Dr. Nick Morgan.

Stranger in a Strange Land stories work when we want to talk about change, Morgan says. In these stories, the hero is thrown into a new situation; something is different. Things are unfamiliar, and our hero doesn’t speak the language. Therefore, the hero needs to learn a new set of rules to cope in this strange land, and there’s a leader who provides the way ahead.

By structuring my client’s entire speech as one story — the Stranger in a Strange Land — we were able to give the audience everything they needed to brave this brand-new world.