In the public speaking world, there is a lot of talk about how effective examples and stories are in a presentation, but sometimes the execution of them can be a challenge. There are 3 simple ways to make sure you have an example or story that works: start with when it happened, give lots of details, and practice.

The best way to begin an example or story is to start with when it happened: "This was 10 years ago..." "This was last year when I was VP of sales at X company...." "This happened just yesterday..." By starting with when it happened, you'll avoid a very common trap: too much background information. Too much exposition in plays and movies (setting, events that happened prior to the main action of the story, a character's back story, etc.) will kill even the best story. Likewise, too much background information in an example or story in a presentation can allow the audience to tune out. Just start with when it happened, and go right into describing the events. The added bonus is that you won't feel like you're in a public speaking situation. You'll feel like you're talking to someone you know very well.

Once you begin your example or story, you'll be surprised how easily an audience will be able to follow it, even if they are not familiar with your industry. The key is to just keep going to what happened next. As you go through each event, your audience will be right there with you, as long as you give lots of details. Details such as who was involved, what was said, and how you or others felt at the time will make the example or story come alive. Think of your example or story as an opportunity to paint a picture for your audience of what happened. Make sure to give lots of details that are relevant to the events of the story, not details that are background information, which are unnecessary.

The other key to delivering an example or story successfully is to practice in front of someone you trust before you do it in front of the group. This has a few benefits. First of all, you'll discover if this is an example or story you think will work. I'm amazed to hear people say in our public speaking class how they don't really like a particular story, but they use it anyway. Our brains are an amazing catalogue of examples or stories we've accumulated from the time we were born. If you don't like telling one in particular, there are sure to be others you'd rather tell. Practicing in front of someone you trust also allows you to get feedback that can be most valuable. When I had to give the best man speech at my brother's wedding, I practiced right beforehand with the maid of honor. We gave each other advice: which parts to include or expand on, and which parts to cut out. It was extremely helpful, and afterwards a number of people told us how good the speeches were!

Examples and stories are a fantastic way to connect with your audience. An audience may not remember all of your key points, but they are very likely to remember a good story. So if you start with when the event happened, give lots of details, and practice beforehand, you'll have a much better success rate, and create a favorable and lasting impression on your audience.

Author's Bio: 

Chris McNeany is Vice President of Fearless Presentations® with The Leader's Institute. He has trained everyone from CEOs to new recruits for companies including Apple, KPMG, Walgreens, and GE. He is based out of Los Angeles.