Watch Out for the Snake!

The snake comes later, but I got your attention, didn’t I? Stories come in three categories. There is the personal experience that happened to you. There is the hypothetical story that could have happened but did not happen. The third type is historical, which happened to someone else and often in another time period. Here is an example of the personal story where the snake plays a role.

I grew up on a small farm in Southern Indiana near Bedford. This occurred in the fifties when I was about eight or nine years old. We were experiencing very hot July weather, and of course this was before air conditioning was common. My mother sent me to the cellar for a muskmelon, or what is more commonly called a cantaloupe. I loved going to this small room hewn out of the side of a hill because this was the coolest place on the farm. I pushed open the thick heavy door and went to the pie safe where the cantaloupes were stored on top. My dad, when building the structure, had made concrete block walls and a wood ceiling. A ventilating space of about three inches was between the concrete block wall and the ceiling.

As I reached to pick up the melon, I discovered a three-foot copperhead snake curled up in the coolness of the opening between the wall and ceiling. I dropped the melon and ran screaming out of the cellar; I was scared beyond words.

Fortunately a neighbor up the road heard my screaming and came quickly with a pitchfork and a rifle. He shot the snake and then with the pitchfork he pulled the reptile out of his cozy spot on top of the wall. I learned a valuable lesson from that experience:  no matter your environment, always look before you reach!

Email me your personal experience and I’ll choose one to highlight on one of my blog posts.

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Great Speakers Tell Stories

Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Billy Graham—just to name a few—were great story tellers. To illustrate or prove a point, experienced and effective speakers tell stories.

Learn to tell stories. Here are some criteria to do this well. Begin your story by answering the “W” questions. Those include answers to Who, What, When, Where, Why. By answering these questions you will give the audience context and chronology to understand and be impacted by the story. A story is simply a narrative about a connected series of events. The “W”s are critical to create a story.

Be animated in telling the story. Become a part of the story. Show what happened with gestures and facial expression. Give your audience the appropriate emotional level by the tone of your voice. Let the audience know the important aspects by punching out key words in the drama, lower your voice, or include a dramatic pause. Show dialogue by changing voice tone as you go from one story character to another.

Personalize when possible. Don’t use the third person pronoun “he,” “she,” or “they.” Name people, streets, animals, and cities even if your audience members are not familiar with the names. This humanizes the story and audiences can relate better. Our family didn’t just have a small dog, we had Sebastian,  the miniature schnauzer who tried to terrorize the neighborhood with a high squeaky bark.

Have a sense of direction in telling the story. Remove unnecessary information. Be concise. A general rule is to keep your story under two minutes. If you can’t do it in around two minutes, you probably need to revise some more.

Practice the story until you can tell it with confidence and enthusiasm. Finally, state your point and make sure it is relevant to the story.

What names of great story tellers would you add to this list?