It happened once again. I was at my son’s commencement ceremony last weekend and heard two thoughtful and inspiring speakers, Ann Hagedorn and Orlando Taylor. I also heard Jessica Morgan Hall give the senior class address. After the last cap had been tossed in the air, hugs and kisses generously given and photos snapped from every angle, we all wandered down the hill, ending a day that filled our hearts with pride and good cheer. And then someone asked, “What did you think of the speeches?”
“I loved the story about the guy who walked a tightrope over Niagara Falls.”
“Wasn’t that a great reference to the book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten especially when he said ‘Don’t punch anyone?’”
“I loved the James Joyce quote.”
“That story about the president walking down the meandering path with his grandson was great.”
Hmmm…funny what everyone remembered and was excited about…and it was barely an hour since the ceremony ended.
It’s a lesson I’ve learned time and time again: There is power in stories, analogies, quotes, metaphors – and the sheer force they impose on the hearts and minds (not to mention the memory) of the listener.
Audiences love stories. The simpler, the more colorful, the more engaging, the easier to understand…the better. Somehow stories bring us together in a unique and reliable way. And even in a large crowd of thousands of people, they create unity and a sense of shared experience and belonging. We all laugh, smile, and chuckle, and then we all remember.
However deep and meaningful the message, whatever important insight is shared, and whatever fancy words are used to encourage action…the message will linger only if it is supported with stories, analogies, quotes, metaphors…and a little bit of humor. In good conversation as well as in public speaking, these simple elements cast the spell that entertains, inspires, delights and brings us all together.