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Speakers: Make a Point – Tell a Story!

A Make a Point – Tell a Story!

That’s the Formula for the Body of a Presentation. • Make a Point – Tell a Story that supports that Point. • Three to Five Points Per Presentation. * ExamplePersonal Stories are Best.

We love stories, don’t we? Before people put ink on paper, stories were one of the best ways to teach and convey the news.

A complex concept can be explained by telling a well constructed story that simplifies the meaning. Most of us have great memories of stories being told to us by teachers, parents, and grandparents. We’ve also enjoyed telling stories to friends and family.

* Here’s an Example: Suppose I was giving a presentation and one of the Points I made was about the value of Persistence.

Persistence is relevant to achieving many goals including: Sports, Arts, Business, Health, etc. I might mention the benefit of recognizing Persistence for reaching goals is important because getting there is often a Process and not an Event. The objective won’t be reached immediately, but by progressing slowly and steadily towards it, victory will be seen!

The next step, after making the “Persistence Point” is to tell a Supporting Story, a story that shows how persistence pays off.

I might tell the story about Thomas Edison and the Persistence he exhibited when inventing the light bulb. The story is that it took him 10,000 experiments to successfully find the correct materials and combination of them to make the first incandescent bulb. The story continues that a reporter once asked the great inventor how he felt about having Failed over 9,000 times. The genius of Menlo Park replied, “I never failed! I successfully found many, many things that did not work. Each experiment brought me closer to my goal!”

That is a great story for demonstrating Persistence, isn’t it?

Have you hear the Edison Story before? Many people have! I heard it twice in one day! Two speakers, back-to-back told the same Edison Story about Persistence! That’s the problem with many popular stories – too many people have heard them! Using those stories to support a point in your speech doesn’t have the impact you want to achieve.

Here’s the Solution: Tell Your Personal Story!

As an Example, Here is my Persistence Story.

I was in the Coffee Service business for many years.

At one point, we started handling a coffee system that would brew a single cup at a time. Not instant coffee, but real fresh-brewed coffee. The coffee and the filter were in a single capsule-like container.

The whole system offered many advantages: no waste, very little time in preparation or cleaning, choices for all tastes, etc. It truly was a revolutionary idea for the Coffee Service industry and has become a very popular way of brewing coffee, letting people have the kind of coffee they want, when they want it.

In the cross hairs of my sales target was a locally owned chain of banks.

I knew they had a Coffee Bar in the lobby of their headquarters location where clients and employees could go for a cup of Joe. This meant they were a large volume user and put them high on my prospect list.

It was an upscale bank, so I figured our new gourmet, single-cup, fresh-brew system would be a perfect fit for them.

A good selling tactic is to start at the top with Vito – the Very Important Top Officer.

With this in mind, I called the chairman of the board … and I called the chairman of the board … and I continued to call the chairman of the board. I called repeatedly; no luck getting through to him.

Then one day I saw an article in the paper featuring him and the fact that he collected circus memorabilia.

Thinking this might be an attention-getter for securing an appointment, I sent him a copy of the article with a note stating, “Richard, I saw this and thought you might want another copy.

“By the way, I’ve seen your Coffee Bar. If you ever want to upgrade it, I have something that might be a fit.”

I followed that note up with a phone call, another phone call, and several additional calls before finally getting Richard on the phone. (This is my Persistence Story, isn’t it?)

When we spoke, he mentioned a coffee brewing system he enjoyed at one of the airline clubs at the airport and said he might consider switching to it.

I said, “Richard, I’m familiar with that machine.  It’s an excellent choice, but it doesn’t offer the variety that the system I’m suggesting does. Additionally, ours is much easier to clean and maintain.

“By the way, do you drink coffee, Richard?”

“I love a good cup of coffee,” he replied.

I went on to close the appointment and asked, “What would fit your schedule better – Tuesday or Wednesday next week?”

He replied, “Tuesday,” and we set the time for 2:00 PM.

Before hanging up, I exclaimed, “Richard, wait till you taste the French Roast!”

On the day of the appointment I was early, and thoroughly prepared. I got into the elevator that led to the Executive Office Suite. My goal was to perform a demonstration.

For this sales call, being prepared meant using my dolly to carry a coffee brewer, water bottle, pump, many coffee samples, signage, and everything else needed for a demo.

I was led into Richard’s office promptly at 2:00.

We exchanged a few pleasantries, and he noted that he liked aggressive salespeople. (“Good!” I said to myself.)

About that time, a gentleman wearing a suit walked into the room, handed Richard some papers, and glanced at me.

Richard introduced me to Ken, the president of the bank, and told him why I was visiting.

We shook hands, and Ken promptly left the office.

Richard and I had barely begun to talk again when the phone on Richard’s beautiful walnut desk rang.

Richard answered – it was Ken! Because it was a small room, and Ken’s voice was loud on the other end, I could hear the conversation!

“What in the world are you doing talking to this guy, Richard?” I heard Ken ask.

“Not only is our present coffee supplier a customer of the bank, he’s a friend of yours!

“Get rid of him. We’ve got work to do!”

I heard a click on the other end of the phone, and watched Richard put his handset into its cradle.

He looked up from the desk and stared straight at me.

“We’re going to have a problem with Ken,” he stated.

I had come too far to give up, so I asked, “You once told me you like coffee, didn’t you Richard?” I asked.

“Yes, but . . .” he started to say.

Jumping to my feet, I interrupted him and exclaimed, “Wait till you taste the French Roast!”

Without looking at Richard for approval, I grabbed my dolly with all its coffee supplies and headed out of his office and towards the elevator.

A flying tackle would have been the only way to stop me.

“Come down in about 45 minutes and try the coffee!” I shouted as the elevator door closed behind me.

When the doors opened on the ground floor, where the coffee bar was, I didn’t waste any time getting my demo set up.

Sure enough, about 45 minutes later, Richard came down to try a cup of fresh-brewed French Roast Coffee.

I handed him a K-Cup (a small container holding a filter and enough coffee to make a fresh brewed cup of coffee in just moments).

He placed the K-Cup in its designated spot, put his coffee cup where indicated, and, as I instructed, pushed the start button.

Very quickly, he had a full cup of coffee and the system was ready for its next customer.

He liked it, and seemed to approve when I started showing customers and employees how to use the machine and make a single cup of fresh-brewed coffee.

With the coffee bar filled with people making and drinking coffee I turned to Richard and said, “How about this, Richard? I’ll come in tomorrow morning, bring lots of supplies, and treat your employees, and customers to my products. Then you can poll them and determine if my system would be a fit for the bank.  No charge – it’s all on me!”

Richard agreed to the Free Test Drive, and we shook hands.

The following morning I was at the bank early.

I set up everything and started buttonholing people to show them how to brew their own cup of java and things were going really well – many folks getting their own coffee, both bank customers and employees.

Then, at 9:00, Ken walked into the bank. He took one look at what was going on, immediately walked up to me, got right up into my face and said, “What are YOU doing here!”

I answered, “Well, I talked to Richard after we did a little coffee tasting yesterday and offered to come in this morning and do the same thing for all your employees and customers. We could then poll everyone to see whether it might be something worth bringing into the bank.”

Ken pointed his index finger directly at me and declared, “YOU were supposed to talk to ME!

“MY office – 15 minutes!”

If you have ever been in sales, you’ll quickly note that Ken’s remarks and body language were not buying signals!

Promptly at 9:25, as suggested by Ken, I walked into his office.

The only thing I could think to do was immediately fall on the sword.

“I apologize, Ken,” I said when I walked into his office.

Completely my fault!” I went on.

“Obviously, I misunderstood something last night. I take full responsibility for setting up the coffee tasting without first consulting you.”

Figuring these statements would throw some cool water on his hot temper; I sat down in the chair he motioned me to sit in.


When I started getting comfortable, he declared, “That doesn’t even matter!

“I’ve talked to some of my people who tried your coffee. Nobody had anything great to say about it. Several commented how hot it was. Statements like that get me very concerned that a customer could burn themselves, and we’d get sued!”

I’d worked too long and come too far to give up now. (Remember, this is my Persistence Story!)

The only thing I thought would save me from getting kicked out of the bank immediately was to ask a question. There was only one question that made sense to ask.

So I asked Ken, very nicely, “Are you a coffee drinker?”

That really caught him off guard.

Stunned by the question, he answered, “Well, sure.  I drink about five cups a day.”

Now, there was only one thing I could do and say. I rose to my feet and started towards the door of his office, and exclaimed, “Wait till you taste the French Roast!”

He would have had to call Security to stop me.

When the dust settled, I installed a coffee brewing system in the coffee bar area and one in the employee lounge.

I also persuaded Ken to replace their bottled water service with one of our filtered water systems. “Better water makes better coffee!” I told him.

It was not long after these installation that my company was asked to do the same at all the bank’s branch locations.

Now, that’s my Persistence Story.

No one else can tell that story! (Unless, of course, you give me attribution!)

Anyone can tell, and many have told, the Thomas Edison Persistence Story.

Here’s the Point: Each of us has a personal story to tell.

You have stories of: overcoming adversity, not quitting, speaking your mind when it wasn’t the popular belief, and other stories from your school of hard knocks.

The Key is to do as they say in practicing yoga – “Be present on the journey and always in the moment.”

Be aware of what’s happening when it’s happening

Then, when those stories occur in real time, capture them, and put them in the hard drive that is your brain!

Do this, and you’ll start building files of stories to use when you’re developing and preparing a speech.

Then use these in the Make a Point – Tell a Story elements part of the body of your talk.

For reading, and/or listening, this far I’d like to give you a FREE Gift. Go to: to receive it! (You may be asked to update your profile even if it hasn’t changed. Please do!)

About the Author Fred E. Miller is a speaker, a coach, and the author of the book, “No Sweat Public Speaking!” Businesses and individuals hire him because they want to improve their Public Speaking and Presentation Skills. They do this because we perceive really great speakers to be Experts. Perception is reality, and we rather deal with Experts.

They also know: Speaking Opportunities are Business Opportunities. Speaking Opportunities are Career Opportunities. Speaking Opportunities are Leadership Opportunities.

He shows them how to: Develop, Practice, and Deliver ‘Knock Your Socks Off Presentations!’ with – NO SWEAT!

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