A Prezi prepared for Carmine Gallo’s new book, “The Storyteller’s Secret,” offers several great examples of the power of storytelling in various public speaking contexts.
This could be a nice addition at the start if you use a storytelling introductory speech, or later in the semester as part of the persuasion unit.
To incorporate an in-class activity, students could be asked before seeing the video to make a list of characteristics of a story and/or to name different contexts where people tell stories (speeches, dates, family gatherings, etc.).
After the video, a class discussion about how stories are used to transmit group values could be done. I like to use familiar stories like “The Wizard of Oz” or “Three Little Bears.” But I also share a few brief stories told on my first day at a former workplace (“and we all stayed all night and worked right through the blizzard…”) and a story my in-laws told when I first met them to ask what values they were intending to communicate.
Note that there is a brief ad for the book at the end of the video.
The Simpsons: Season 4, episode 17
This episode features a sequence at a union meeting where Homer and his fellow employees are offered a new deal on their contract that involves giving up their dental plan. Homer brings a stop to the deal because he recently found out that Lisa will need braces. This leads to some follow-up questions:
- Why did Homer want to kill the new deal?
- If Mr. Burns had anticipated that problem and said that the dental plan would remain for two more years, would Homer have reacted the same way?
- If anyone has seen this episode, what happens?
This leads into a discussion of why it is important to also research the other side of the argument and be prepared to address their objections.
This is often cited as one of the best Simpson episodes — and deserves it. It is rich in terms of persuasive techniques attempted at various points in the impasse.
Recently I had an opportunity to teach public speaking for middle school students — in our area that includes students ages 10-14. I developed some new assignments for them.
This was the persuasive assignment:
- Topic: “What is the best pet for a family?” Students were to be specific about the pet, so rather than just say “dog” they were to select a breed.
- Length: 6 minutes — 1 minute on a “needs” section, 1 minute on each of three main points, plus 2 minutes to cover the introduction, transitions, and conclusion.
- Structure: The students used a needs/benefits structure. After the introduction, they did a needs section, which focused on what they saw as a family’s needs and limitations for a pet. The main points focused on benefits of their particular pet and how it addressed the needs. They were also to include at least one counterargument — a potential downside of their pet — and address it. It is essentially the Motivated Sequence but without the visualization step IV.
- Outside sources: At least two required.
- Visual aids: Two required. I was able to allow the pets as visual aids, but pictures would work too.
This assignment was a lot of fun and the students worked hard to make a good case for their favorite pets. They needed a lot of help and examples for the needs section so we worked on those in class and created a master list from which they could select those that would apply to their topic.
Video for interpersonal comm, storytelling or persuasion
Everybody Loves Raymond: Season 4, episode 75
This clip from Everybody Loves Raymond does a great job of illustrating the idea of reframing. It relates to interpersonal communication, especially related to conflict, and to persuasion and storytelling in public speaking.
Married couple Ray and Debra share different perspectives on the same series of events after Debra replaces their old can opener with a new one that claims to have more features. Although the basic facts are the same, their versions are very different.
In interpersonal communication, speakers often reframe or change punctuation in stories to favor themselves. In public speaking, speakers often tell stories to emphasize particular points they want to make, especially when seeking persuasive goals.
Notes: This (admittedly grainy) video of the 6-minute segment is currently available for free at YouTube — there may be other versions online as well. There is potentially offensive language at the end of the clip, but the clip can be stopped beforehand without losing any of the example.
Can think of other examples of movies or TV shows that feature this reframing technique?
These are the materials that I provide to students when planning their group proposal presentation on how to improve the university:
A handout on topics
- The university collects approximately $100,000 a year in a student green fee, designed to help the university invest in more environmentally friendly products. Your group can make recommendations about how the money collected this year should be spent next year.
- The university is currently looking for ways to save money in light of expected budget shortfalls. Your group can make recommendations about what the campus can do to save money without harming the quality of education on campus.
If you wish to (or are required to) include a group presentation, this is a nice approach. Have the groups agree on a topic related to how to improve the university in some way and have each group member present a different solution. If you wish, you can have the rest of the class vote on which solution they feel would be best and return the votes to the speakers. I give the students a recommended list of topics to select from but also allow them to suggest their own.
Here is how the assignment is presented to students:
These are the links I provide to go along with the sales presentation assignment:
For sources, I allow the use of reviews at various web sites and interviews with friends alongside more professional reviews or fact-based information.
This is often listed as the most enjoyable and the most educational of the speech assignments in my evaluations. The sales format is something students are generally familiar with already and the techniques in sales are the same as “selling” yourself in a job interview.
The topics can include both products and services. Free items can work for students who dislike a materialistic focus — I’ve heard several great speeches on parks near the university that are completely free, for example. The only topic I discourage is electronics — there are only so many ways to make an iPhone speech interesting and they’ll run out of them after the first three.
For format, I have students use an INPC pattern (introduction, needs, presentation, conclusion) — it is basically the Motivated Sequence without the Visualization step. It is simple and effective.
Here is how the assignment is described to students: