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What to say to your audience

publication date: May 21, 2013
author/source: Cathy Sobocan

Have you ever thought you were going to fall asleep while listening to a speaker? Was the talk boring, forced or full of jargon? Did you feel engaged or did you feel like you were being “talked at?”

The best way to reach your audience is to tell them stories. Story telling is in our DNA. It’s common to all cultures and it’s the simplest way to pass on information from one person to another. 

Stories can reach an audience on an emotional level. For example, a true story about how the family living next door to you lives on five dollars a day will grab people’s attention.

But a list of facts and figures about how many people live on five dollars a day – although important – won’t have as much impact.  It’s easier to remember a story than it is a list of facts.

Here are some tips for weaving stories into your talk... 

  1. Begin your talk with a personal story. For example, the story of how you got into fundraising. Were you personally impacted by an event in your life that got you into fundraising?
  2. Share your story in conversational language, as if you were sharing it with a friend.
  3. Use strong, simple words.
  4. Tell your story in chronological order – a beginning, middle and end.  
  5. After you’ve told your story, then weave in the facts. “I’ve since learned that most of the world’s population lives on two dollars a day or less. My neighbors, although living in Toronto, fall into that category.”
  6. The conclusion of your talk should include your call to action. However, let’s change the intention. You are offering your audience an “invitation” to help out. An opportunity to help people like your neighbor Janice who lives on two dollars a day.

The author, Cathy Sobocan, will speak on The Art of Public Speaking for Fundraisers at AFP Toronto’s Fundraising Day.

Cathy Sobocan brings over 20 years of radio and television broadcasting and teaching experience to her work as a public speaking and presentation skills coach.  With graduate degrees in journalism and voice teaching, she trained in the theatre department at York University, the Stratford Festival, and Second City, among others. She’s a part-time announcer on JAZZ FM Radio in Toronto and owner of Raise Your Voice Coaching.

Cathy has coached CEOs, actors, Olympic athletes, speakers, and people who simply want to improve their voices.  She’s proud to be the voice coach of the TEDx conference in Toronto. Contact her at 416-388-1165, by email, or through

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