7 Story Ideas For A Tech Speaking Gig
I’ve helped more than 20 people prep for a Tech Conference this year already and you know what they all have in common?
They’re generally sharing a LOT of information (and little to no stories).
So, part of what I do is find a way to integrate a story into their talks.
Even if they’re speaking about technical topics such as protocol reverse engineering or managing a security operations centre. 😄
Because there’s so many ways you can use storytelling in any talk. You just need to know how.
So, I thought I’d share some of that here with you.
If you have a Tech speaking gig coming up and you’d like to tell some stories, then here are 7 ideas for you!
1. THE ORIGIN STORY
A few years ago I helped someone who worked for Ambulance Victoria (in the Tech/Data space) prep their Conf talk.
In our first session, she explained she wanted to convince hospitals, doctors, ambos and police to share more data between them.
She went through what she wanted to share in her talk. This included raw information and details on why and how this could be done.
But the burning question on my mind was – what’s the connection between her, this topic and the Conference?
So I asked her
“Why are YOU so passionate about sharing data? Why are you SO compelled to talk about it at this Conference?”
She then shared a story with me that explained everything……
A few years prior, her mum had suffered a brain aneurysm and nearly died. All because the Ambulance took so long to arrive. As it was attending to other people it didn’t need to attend to, because it didn’t have the right information on each patient.
My advice back to her was:
“You have to tell that story. If you’re comfortable to, of course. Because, it was obviously a turning point for you. So it will be a turning point for others too.
One of the easiest ways to share a story is to explain why that topic means something to you. But not in facts or bullet points. Share the event or moment which sparked your interest in this topic.
There’s almost always an interesting back-story to why you’re so interested in that topic or why you chose to talk about what you’re talking about.
So share that with people, as they will be super curious about the connection you have to what you’re talking about.
E.g. Back in XXXX Year, I was doing Y with . Then Z happened and ….
2. YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
People love to hear something they’ve never heard before and learn from other’s experience. However, don’t just tell them what you’ve learnt.
Share the experiences (good and bad) you had with the topic/tool/approach.
Because, let’s be honest. We love learning from other people’s mistakes. Am I right!?
Plus, we’re generally nosey and love to hear about someone else’s failures and the way they turned it all around!!!
Generally, if you’re talking on a certain topic, you’ll have made some mistakes, tried different things, had some realisations, tweaked your approach accordingly and then had some success.
So share it all. Then they will learn it vicariously through your story, instead of simply just being told something.
It’s faaaaaar more interesting, far more impactful and far more memorable if you can share the story that prompted any lessons.
E.g. When I was working in X organisation, we were trying to do Y and having problem Z… Then….
3. A HYPOTHETICAL EXAMPLE
If you want to quickly get people to relate to the problem you’re talk is addressing, a hypothetical example at the start of your talk is a great option.
It gets people into the exact situation your talk is addressing, without you having to explain the topic, then define any terms, then explain your idea etc etc.
It’s far more relatable and will generally have people physically nodding in the audience.
E.g. Have you ever tried to do x ….and you’ve struggled with y?
4. A STORY WHICH PROVES A POINT
If you try and make points about something in your talk (which you will inevitably do), don’t expect people to be 100% on-board with you just because you said it’s so.
Even providing reasons or assuming people will just trust you, doesn’t always get people across the line.
However, sharing a story (perhaps one from the public domain) that proves a point you’re making is a genius way to generate buy-in.
Simply find a story (either your own experience, someone else’s, a famous example etc) which illustrates this point in action.
E.g. Make your point. Then say – Let me share something with you which brings this to life. Back in XXXX Year, Company Y was doing Z. Then…
5. THE STORY BEHIND A SPECIFIC STATISTIC
If I ever find a statistic I want to share in a presentation, I try and find the story behind it.
But *how* do you do that?
Let’s say you want a stat to drive a point home. You’d generally Google it right?
Well, if you do some research and find a legit stat, you can generally find the study that published a specific statistic.
Once you’ve found the details of the study, it should explain what was involved and how they arrived at those details.
That, right there, is the story behind the stat. Which is far more interesting than the stat alone is!!!
E.g. In XXXX year, wanted to try and prove Y, so they setup a study Z…. This involved…… (Oooh isn’t this far more enticing than just giving a cold stat!?)
6. PAINT THE PICTURE OF THE FUTURE
If you’re proposing a tool/solution to people, paint a hypothetical picture about what the future could look like, so people can buy into it.
It’s sometimes hard to picture exactly how you’re proposing things will be if the audience does what you’re suggesting they do. But a story does this really well.
I remember coaching a client who was talking about an upcoming regulatory change (Open Banking) and what the implications would be on the finance industry.
At the time, people weren’t clear about what life would be like once Open Banking was introduced. It was a bit confusing and hard to wrap your head around.
So, instead of including definitions on Open Banking from the Australian Government website, or waterfall diagrams showing different Tech functionality or Project phases, I suggested she humanised it by focussing on some scenarios that might change when Open Banking went live.
So she shared a hypothetical story of a made up (but entirely plausible) person called John.
She explained what it was like if John wanted to compare banking products in the current world (and how little information he would have). Then she explained how that would play out once Open Banking was introduced (and how easy and transparent it would be).
E.g. I want you to imagine ….
7. STORY BEHIND THE EVENT/SPEAKER
If you’re MCing an event, or you’re introducing a speaker, puhlease don’t simply read their bio out word for word. It’s just so awkward.
Share the story behind the event or share the story behind why the selected speaker was chosen.
The story will segue nicely to the speaker, it’s much more personable and it will be much more memorable too.
E.g. When we decided we wanted to go with x topic, I remembered ….
I hope this has given you food for thought!! There should now be NO excuses for not including a story. Don’t just share lots and lots of information.
Next time you have a speaking gig, share a story or two.
Your audience will love it.
Any others you’d add to this list!? Let me know.
Until next time,
P.S. If this has got you all excited about telling stories, but you’d feel you need a bit more help…. I go into a lot more detail on storytelling and give you space to practise your skills in my 9-Week Captivating Storyteller Group Coaching Program.
Emily Edgeley is a Public Speaking Coach for the Technology industry. Since 2017 she’s run over 100 group coaching sessions, coached more than 200 people privately, and formally supported first time and experienced speakers at 10 Conferences, covering 1000+ people across the globe.
She’s on a mission to help anyone in the Tech arena learn how to speak with clarity, impact, and confidence, whether that’s at work or at a Conference. So they can share their ideas competently, elevate their personal brand and start to enjoy ‘public speaking’!
She’s also a regular podcast guest, a writer, a mum of one, a massive dog lover and a fan of cryptic crosswords.