Patricia Fripp on the Power of Story

When it comes to story tellers, Patricia Fripp would be on any meeting planner's short list. Now, storytelling is all the rage. I interviewed Ms. Fripp recently on how to use stories to leave a lasting impression on your audiences. She is doing a three-day coaching session on this topic. For info click here:

Here is a brief segment from my interview with Patricia covering her best ideas.

Q: Telling stories is the key message in the best-selling book "Tell to Win," by Peter Guber, the former chairman of Sony Pictures. You and others in NSA have been preaching this technique for years. Why do stories work so well?
A: Use stories. Help your listeners to "see" your words. Statistics and facts are fine, but sell your message and make yourself unforgettable by getting listeners to make the movie in their heads. For example, you might say, "Drunk driving is a bad idea. Let me share with you some statistics on the loss of control drivers experience after even one beer." Instead say, "Never, never, never drive drunk! Not even after one beer. I know. My friend Eliot Kramer was absolutely positive that two drinks couldn't affect his timing and judgment." (Hold up a single shoe, dangling from its shoelaces.) "Six months ago, he died." Farther on, add some statistics and then conclude with a reference to your powerful story.

Q: What is the one tip we should incorporate into our speeches to be remembered?
A: "Speak to be remembered and repeated," is the advice I give my executive speech coaching clients. Isn't that the goal of every executive, professional speaker and sales professional's to be remembered and repeated?
However it's easier said than done. Here are some tips.
Speak in short sentences or phrases. Edit your sentences to a nub. Jerry Seinfeld said, "I will spend an hour taking an eight word sentence and editing it down to five." In comedy, the fewer the words between the set-up and the punch word, the bigger the laugh. In business communications, change the punch word or phrase to impact phrase.

Q: Actors say that timing is everything. What tips can you share with us so we get our timing down?
A: Don't step on your punch word. It should be the final word or idea in the sentence. (Yes, this works for Jerry Seinfeld and his comedian bre thren, and it also works for business communicators.)
The otherwise-powerful word "today" can also be the biggest impact-diluting word in business communications if you use it wrong. For example, in the sentence, "You have to make an important decision today," your punch word should be "decision." So switch it around and change the noun "decision" to the active verb "decide." "Today, you have to DECIDE!"

Q: Are there other tactics that speakers can use easily?
A: Perfect your pause. Deliver your punch word and then pause...and pause...and pause. Give your listeners time to digest what you've just said. Get comfortable with silence, and don't be tempted to rush on or fill it with "um's."

Q: What's your feeling about the old speaker's dictum of tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them?
A: Repeat your key ideas more than once. Do not be afraid of being redund ant. Instead, worry that tomorrow your audience members will not remember your key ideas.

Q: How can you be remembered?
A: Say something memorable. Presidents have gifted speech writers to coin ringing phrases for the history books. You can be just as memorable in your field when you think about what you want to say and why. Here's an example from the memorial for 60 Minutes' Ed Bradley. Fellow reporter Steve Kroft said, "I learned a lot from Ed Bradley, and not just about journalism. I learned a lot about friendship, manners, clothes, wine, freshly cut flowers which he had delivered to his office every week and the importance of stopping and smelling them every once in awhile."
Another example, from Mike Powell when he was a senior scientist at Genentech, giving a speech to the Continental Breakfast Club: "Being a scientist is like doing a jigsaw puzzle, in a snow storm, at night, when you don't have all the pieces, or the picture you are trying to create."

Remember to try out these six key ideas as you prepare your next presentation so your words will be remembered and repeated. Why else would you go to all that effort?

Dan Janal helps small businesses get publicity so they can sell more products. My clients get terrific results from my coaching, consulting, done-for-you services and do-it-yourself tools. For info, go to or call me at 952-380-1554.

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