Capturing and Keeping Your Listener’s Attention: The Art of Crafting A Compelling Story

December 11, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Posted in Articles | Leave a comment

Have you ever wondered how a story can keep you on the edge of your seat or unable to stop turning pages in anticipation of what will come next?

There are Three Musts for creating a provocative, entertaining, and compelling story for the beginning of a presentation:

1) Action

2) High Stakes (Conflict)

3) Narrative + Dialogue

Many speakers begin their presentations with a story, or rather something story-like. It is easy to fall into the trap of creating essays, stand-up routines, or tirades which have no redeeming ending or closure.

Your eloquent verbiage may work beautifully on paper, but does not always translate into a dramatic moment when it goes  ‘live’ as the spoken word.

Concerning humor? What is funny to some? Seldom is funny for all.

All stories must have a distinctive beginning, middle and end. Don’t leave your listener, literally ‘hanging’ – without a clear resolution at the end.

Beginning: Set up your beginning anecdote (story) with Action immediately; creating High Stakes with both Narrative and Dialogue in your opening lines.

Ineffective:   Internal Dialogue – Passive

I was thinking I had not seen Maggie since the morning. It had been a very busy day. Then it dawned on me; could she have gone on her own to get Miss Sally. . .

Effective:     Narrative + External Dialogue – Active

Maggie’s forlorn look made me wish my day was over when I told her, “As soon as I take care of the last rider, Maggie, we’ll round up Miss Sally for your birthday ride.” She had just turned nine.

“Oh boy, I can’t wait, Rebecca!” Maggie called back over her shoulder as she skipped away.

“Be back at 5:00!” I hollered after her. Without even a glance backward, or a care in the world, she was gone. Oh to be young again. I turned back to my schedule of riders who were still out for the day.

The last rider came in at 4:30. Enough time to get a bucket of grain from the binto coax Miss Sally in from the pasture. I turned to grab her halter from the rack  behind me. The hook was empty! It was Gone!

Effective:   High Stakes & Action

“Maggie. . .!” I blurted out a little too loudly, a couple of remaining riders turning to stare, a desk file flying in all directions, as I panicked, pushing past them. I hurtled the fence leading to the enclosed pasture, racing toward Miss Sally, the flashback of what happened months ago, rushing back, the instant I saw Maggie.

“Maggie! No!”  She didn’t immediately turn around to respond. That tragic day came to me in waves. The competition, the dust-filled ring, Maggie holding on for dear life to the spooked horse’s reins, unable to hear us to tell her to “let go.” She had held on to the reins, then catapulted into the hard ground, breaking her arm in two places.

“It’s on, Rebecca!” Maggie yelled backwards, then turned toward me, pointing to her ear, an exasperated look on her face, the other hand holding the halter, waiting in the grass, just feet from the mare.

“Thank God, she’s wearing it!” I said aloud, my head looking up at the sky with gratitude, the relief returning in my voice.

Transitioning:  From Story To Your Overall Message

It had been a year since Maggie’s accident. An accident that should have never happened, had Maggie and her family had the means to purchase their daughter a much needed hearing aid.

Thanks to the help of a newly funded federal program, children like Maggie, can now afford to be safer around farm machinery and animals.

Last year, over 300 special needs children were hurt, maimed, and some even died, because they did not have the proper services or education to avoid potential farm accidents and disasters. Have you ever wondered how a story can keep you on the edge of your seat or unable to stop turning pages in anticipation of what will come next?

Leave a Comment »

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: