Merciless, isn’t it?
Somebody gets up to share their story at a conference, camp, church service, or retreat and you get far more than you bargained for.
They either take too much time on detail, turn it into their own personal counseling and processing session, or simply start to like the sound of their own voice.
While their intentions are usually good and those most loyal to them will stick with the entire rant, others without any relational buy-in will stop listening after a few moments and begin to wonder exactly how long this story is going to go on. Inside they’re thinking, “SOS! Someone save me!”
Especially when addressing a crowd, the words we choose to speak need to be on point and assisted by illustration and application.
Here are a few steps to a stronger story. It’s the SOS approach:
1- A Stronger Story is (S) SHORT
To keep the attention of your audience, usually 3-5 minutes is ideal. You also have to remember that when you’re the one talking, 3-5 minutes feels way shorter to you than it does to anyone else in the room. Short and pointed speeches are most impactful.
2- A Stronger Story is (O) ORDERLY
There has to be a progression. Too often, the person sharing is not really prepared. They have thought about a few things they want to say but have failed to string them together in a way that makes sense and is impactful. When telling your Jesus story, simply tell people what your life was like before Jesus, what happened when you found him, and how your life has changed since you started following him. Spend 60-90 seconds on each segment. Resist the temptation to take rabbit trails or getting sucked into extended emotional moments. Otherwise things can quickly move from impactful to depressing to downright awkward. If you miss a point in the story, don’t go back and clean up. Capitalize on the power of telling a progressing story.
3- A Stronger Story is (S) STRATEGIC
Stories don’t just make themselves great. You’ve heard someone get to the end of a story and say, “That’s the end of the story.” People follow better if the story ends with a question to start discussion, a sober moment to bring reflection or an exclamation point that causes applause or a surge of hope. Airplane pilots don’t turn on autopilot for the takeoff and the landing. They have prepared, communicated and trained for these important moments. Too many times a lot of preparation goes into the body of the speech and no attention is given to the beginning and end. The way you start builds credibility and reliability and the way you end brings memorable impact. Be strategic in how you start and finish.
Stronger stories take time, thought and preparation. The benefit is that stronger stories make a stronger impact. Our stories should not be merciless but surging, hopeful, impacting, thought-provoking, and change-inducing.