Great public speaking normally involves telling a story and often an anecdote will help make your message sticky.
Anecdotes help create authenticity, which helps an audience connect with you on a deeper level, encouraging trust.
You can have all the professional or academic qualifications in the world – and establishing these does matter – but being able to show you’ve also lived your message can be really powerful.
Anecdotes can also help illustrate impact. Very often our message is a proposed solution to a problem. When your anecdote demonstrates how that problem operates in the real world – and how your proposal can help fix it – you will get a connection with your listeners.
How best to deploy an anecdote, then? Well, first: keep it brief. Anecdotes operate best when they are pithy and to-the-point. Prune your story back to its barest bones: Who? When? What? Why?
Secondly, emphasise your presence in the anecdote: don’t stay at one remove from it. Instead, place yourself clearly within the narrative frame, “I saw someone in the street the other day …” is a good way to start!
Thirdly, keep them in their place. Although the anecdote can be a very useful tool, it shouldn’t be the bulk of your presentation. Use them as a way in or a means of emphasis.
Your job isn’t to regale your audience with tales of your life – it’s to convince them or inform them of something! Like all strong stuff, use it sparingly!