That’s why Jesus spoke in so many parables! People could grab hold of His word pictures and remember them, and chew on them. They give life to what is otherwise mere principles.
When we speak, we should be liberally peppering our talks with lots of stories–or anecdotes, as speakers like to call them.
But where do you find anecdotes? And when you want to be profound, how do you find a profound anecdote?
I don’t actually think you need to find a profound anecdote to make a profound point.
One of the best anecdotes I use is from the movie Finding Nemo. I build it all up, telling the plot of the movie in a humorous way, and then focusing on a scene at the end when Daddy Marlin is depressed because he promised Nemo that nothing would ever happen to him.
His sidekick Dorrie replies,
Well, that’s a funny thing to promise, because if nothing ever happens to him, then nothing ever happens to him!
Think about that for a moment. That’s a profound statement, even if it was spoken by a fish. And I can give it life in the way that I deliver it.
Another “profound” anecdote was about my daughter Rebecca hoarding toys at playgroup when she was 3. She would put all her toys into a little grocery cart, wheel them into a corner, and throw her little body on top of them. And I used to laugh at her, because the whole time she was making sure other kids didn’t play with her toys, she wasn’t playing with them either.
Do you see how that can fit in to a great talk on trusting God?
I also have an anecdote I use about a young child who is dying of leukemia (definitely a profound one), but often the things that make the most impact aren’t serious stories in and of themselves.
They’re serious because I use them to make a serious point.
For another example of this, check out my birthday post from my main blog, To Love, Honor and Vacuum. I detail some bird watching that my husband and I did (and post some great pictures!) and then gloat that we got to 63 species in one day. We saw 63–but we never saw a black-capped chickadee, one of the most common birds in our area.
I explained it like this:
We never saw a single chickadee. Now, many of you don’t understand why that’s so weird, but in our neck of the woods, if you take a ten minute drive anywhere in the city you will see seven birds, guaranteed: pigeon, red-winged blackbird, ring-billed gull (seagull), mourning dove, crow, robin, and usually Canada goose. Look a little more and you’ll see a blue jay and a chickadee. They’re just incredibly common.
So we saw tons of rare stuff, but not a single chickadee. It was strange.
And it made me think that sometimes we get into ruts, when we’re just expecting that things will go a certain way. And it makes us not try.
The reason chickadee isn’t on our list is because occasionally we’d hear them, but we never went looking (like we did for other birds), because we just assumed, “aw, we’ll see one later today.” Because we always do.
And that’s the way it is with life, too. You always see things. Until the day you don’t.
So don’t take things for granted!
See how that works? It was not a profound anecdote. We simply went bird watching and didn’t see a chickadee. But it can be turned into quite a serious point.
And that’s the key thing with anecdotes:
We sometimes think that the seriousness of the point we’re trying to make requires equal seriousness and gravitas in the story. But actually the opposite is true.
If you’re trying to teach on trust, for instance, that’s a really heavy topic for most people. They struggle with how to trust God. They’re already weighed down. Throw in a story about Finding Nemo and suddenly they can breathe a little easier, and they can listen to you again. It disarms them.
When you’re dealing with difficult issues in your talk, it’s helpful to combine them with anecdotes from everyday life–or even anecdotes that you have a little bit of humour. It helps people relate to you, it helps people listen, and it helps them really “own” what you say.
That’s how I do it–I take little, seemingly insignificant things from everyday life, and I turn them into stories for my talks.
What do you do? Or do you need more help? Ask some questions in the comments!
Want to make sure that your talks use stories effectively? My audio download Crafting Your Signature Talk shows you how and where to use stories and anecdotes to help point people to Christ!