Public Speaking Tip from My English Professor

When I took a creative writing class in college, my professor had a single message that he hammered at away all semester long.

“Show. Don’t tell!”

It’s a piece of advice that you should follow if you want to learn how to tell great stories in your presentations.

“Show. Don’t Tell!” means that to make a story dramatic, you need to describe the action so that the readers can see it unfold in their minds like a movie.

Don’t say, “Bill went to a meeting and shot his enemy.”

Say, “Bill walked into the office building, stepped onto the elevator and got off on the fifth floor. He walked pass the receptionist. “Hi Doris,” he said. “Is Jack in?” She nodded. Bill found conference room 5B and opened the door. Seated at the end of the table was Jack, who was opening up his briefcase. Bill produced a revolover from his pocket and aimed it at Jack. “So you thought it would be fun to tease my wife?”

The idea is that vivid description is what holds attention.

If you want to tell good stories as part of your presentation, you should do the same.

Let’s say that you want to tell a prospect of a successful building project you completed ahead of schedule. Don’t just tell them “We completed the project ahead of schedule.” 

Tell them a story that shows them how you did it.  “The owner told us that they had to get the building open in 12 months because they need to be able to start collecting rent to help make their loan payments. So of course we started as soon as possible. The problem was that on day one, my telephone rang. It was my excavator. “We just hit rock,” he said. “It’s going to take us a month to blast it out.”  So let me tell you how we proceeded . . . .

If you want to learn how to tell great stories, remember that you need to narrate it like it’s a movie.

Show. Don’t tell!

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