Importance of Storytelling for Persuasive Speaking

Storytelling in Public Speaking

Last night I attended an evaluation contest and appreciated the emphasis placed on storytelling for persuasive speaking

Toastmasters Evaluations

One of the hallmarks of the Toastmasters program is evaluations. Each speaker in a club receives feedback, both written and oral, after delivering a talk from one of the speech manuals.  Consequently, speakers improve their speaking skills much more quickly.  Furthermore, evaluators improve their listening and coaching skills.  A true win-win for everyone.

Once a year the District holds an evaluation contest at a conference.  There, the six finalists compete to win the trophy for Best Evaluator for the year.  Each contestant at District level has already has won three contests – the club, Area, and Division level.

Evaluation Competition

The way the competition works is this:  there is a single speaker that delivers a 5-7 minute speech.  The evaluation contestants all have a sheet or two of blank paper for which they jot down their notes.  Once the speaker as completed his or her talk, all the Evaluators are escorted out of the room and given five minutes to prepare their evaluation notes. At the end of five minutes they must give their notes to the Sergeant at Arms to hold until called back into the room to deliver their competition evaluation. 

One by one the evaluators  deliver their 2-3 minute evaluation of the speaker. Their feedback is judge by a panel of judges.  Here is the ballot the judges use:

Toastmasters Evaluation Ballot


The Persuasive Speech

Last night our test speaker gave a persuasive speech, encouraging audience members to sign up and volunteer for the Los Angeles Unified School District Academic Decathlon. He  spoke about how the program works, how it impacts the students who participate, and how the audience members, as Toastmasters, would enjoy volunteering to coach these students in their pursuit of academic excellence.

Four of the six evaluators suggested that the speaker ADD A PERSONAL STORY to his talk.   For example, one evaluation contestant said,   “Tell us a story about one of the kids.  How did this program impact them? You said it changes their life.  Give us a specific example with a personal story of one of the students. ”  Several contestants stated that they would be more inclined to sign up to volunteer had “their heartstrings been pulled with a personal story. ”

So there you have it.  The power of storytelling to persuade an audience to your call to action.



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Those who tell the stories


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