Speech writing has taught me a lot about storytelling. As I iterate each talk, reading aloud has given me the opportunity to feel the words as the as they twist, flutter and twirl around, in not only my heart and mind, but the audience’s too.
There’s no better example to illustrate the emotional power of storytelling than this piece of contrasting images. Notice how each line rises and falls like breath.
As you read these words inhale for the positive half, exhale for the negative.
“We have bigger houses, but smaller families:
We have more degrees, but less sense;
more knowledge, but less judgement;
more experts, but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness.
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but we have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We build more computers to hold more information,
to produce more copies than ever,
but we have less communication.
We have become long on quantity, but short on quality.
These are times of fast foods, but slow digestion;
tall man, but short character;
steep profits, but shallow relationships.
It is a time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.”
By the time you exhale the last word, it feels as if you’ve just completed a brief meditation. The brilliance of the message lies between the stark contrasts of abundance and scarcity. Our advanced technology placed side-by-side our existential emptiness allow us to contemplate the deeper emotional meaning, begging the question — how do the big and the small play out in my own life?
Simple comparisons reinforce our message and allow us to share our story in fresh and unexpected ways. When we leave blank spaces — room to breathe, really — we not only change the pace of our speech, but we also encourage the audience to experience the subtext more profoundly.
So the next time you give a speech consider calling upon the contrast of opposites — it will not only foster listening in your audience, but best of all within you as well.