Have you ever heard that old saying “Facts tell and stories sell?” 

Facts tell and stories sell is a saying I learned in sales class years ago and it’s true as far as it goes.

If you sell with stories, all stories you tell have to be relevant, not only for the audience but in context to what you are selling.

Recently, I heard a speaker who was there to sell a mostly female audience his CRM software tell a story about his pregnant wife and how difficult it is living with a pregnant woman…. I can only assume he thought his story was funny since he was speaking to a predominately female audience. Too bad he hadn’t a clue he’d just stepped into alienating the majority of his audience with his story.

The way you know you’ve “stepped in it” with your audience is when the first of the three horsemen of public speaking disaster arrive.

For our misguided storyteller, the first clue he missed was the look of shock in about 70% of the audience — the first horseman had just run away with the audience’s attention.

Shock can be seen, heard and felt from the stage. It is a pullback of the head from the neck with a slight inhale “gasp” sound and often an open mouth accompanied by wide eyes. A shocked audience is thinking; “Can you believe this guy?” You’ve momentarily lost the audience, but it’s still recoverable.

As he continued his story, confusion set in with many in the audience — the second horseman of speaking disaster…. A confused audience isn’t listening to the speaker anymore. They are too busy looking back and forth to the people sitting near them, hoping that someone will confirm their own sanity — as in “What did s/he just say?”

Once a majority of the audience has gone from confused to shocked, it’s almost too late…. For him, our CRM seller, it was too late, the third and final horseman of speaking disaster had arrived — an annoyed audience — and that horseman was leading many from the audience right out the door.

There are many ways to invite the three horsemen of public speaking disaster and telling a misguided story is one of the top reasons they show up.

A good selling story from the stage is short, to the point, relevant and expresses why your story is important to “them,” your audience in relation to why you and they are there. To make a good story great, it should create positive feelings similar to “Bravo, that’s me,” “I want that too” or “That could be me.”

Be alert for the three horsemen of public speaking disaster, a shocked, confused, and/or annoyed audience to keep them from riding away with your talk!

To Your Speaking Success,

p.s. Please share this with those you know would like to be better communicators. We all have to speak in public sometimes, even if you don’t choose to speak from a stage.