"You can't have too much color in your speeches, but you sure can have too much black and white. Facts and steps are b & w; stories are color." Susan Trivers
"I'm a business speaker," you think. "People expect black and white." I agree that audiences have those expectations and I also say that you don't have to meet them. Expectations are simply habits born of repetition. Change the way you speak and your audiences will change their expectations.
How do you color yourself an engaging speaker?
1) Start writing/crafting your speech or presentation by listing all your stories that are connected in any way to your call-to-action. This list gets you focused on the most powerful source of color--stories about how people were confronted by a crisis and what they did to overcome the obstacles and achieve their goal. There's Action! Suspense! Dialogue! Emotions! All of these constitute color.
2) Make a smaller list of facts, steps and other black and white content. Research, trends, policies, forecasts, sale figures. These are all black and white content. Keep it short, including only the essentials.
3) Line up your colorful content in a way that leads to your call-to-action. (See my Write a Speech Now model for guidance.) For every 2 colorful content pieces insert one black and white piece. Keep this ratio of 2 color to 1 black and white.
Begin with a question that gets the audience involved: "Remember a time when you felt "I'll never get through this"" and then tell your own story about such a time. Continue with another colorful piece, then mention a black and white piece, and so on.
While this may seem artificial as you're writing it, once you speak through it you'll hear the rhythm developing. You can add diagloue, a lot of vocal effects and some questions as you move along. All of this variety keeps the audience engaged.
Your audiences love color and fast movement; ups and downs; surprises; challenges; and the unexpected. Speak with lots of color and a little black and white. Color yourself an engaging, edgy and admired speaker.
What stories have you told that engaged your audiences? Share your experiences in our comment box.