One of the keys to improve at public speaking is to focus less on your words. 

While this may sound paradoxical, especially for someone who uses words to inspire and move others, there is something that has a more powerful impact than words on an audience.

People are generally time-poor and so it is important that we can have an impact in a short space of time. The challenge is how to be memorable when you only have 15 or even 45 minutes to deliver a speech and still leave the audience with something of value to take away. 

What lies beneath?

Once you have chosen your words and crafted your message, remember that words by themselves are rarely enough. As speakers, it is our job to delve deeper into what makes a message stick in the minds of our audience. 

They will remember the images that our words create. They will remember the smells that we describe to trigger a memory. They will remember how something feels or how it tastes. 

Let’s think about the images we can create with our words. A powerful image can convey places, colours, textures, periods in time and many other kinds of memories. When we create an image in the minds of our audience, we are helping them access a particular memory, facilitating what we could call a transfer of emotion. 

Dale Carnegie once said, ‘Your purpose is to make your audience see what you saw, hear what you heard, feel what you felt.’

Taking this a step further, we want to use what our audience sees, hears and feels to make our message relevant to them.

Storytelling is a tool to help you transfer the emotion

Storytelling is a powerful tool used by speakers. When we share a well-told story, it is like taking our audience on a journey, a journey into their imagination and memory, and if we cast our characters in such a way, our audience could feel as though they are a part of the story.

At the same time as we share our story, we are inviting our audience to think and reflect and be present in their own story. An image will help them determine the context and why it is important to them.

The journey leads to the destination

When we create an image with our words, instead of simply showing a picture, each member of our audience will have their own interpretation of that image. 

The images they conjure up in their minds are more relevant and more powerful than anything we could present on a slideshow.

If I showed you a photo of my very first bike, which I got for my fourth birthday, you would see a three-wheeled tricycle with a pink straw basket attached to the front, tassels on the handlebars and a rope tied to the front for my dad to pull me along, because my feet barely touched the pedals. My parents had bought me the ‘next size up’, so I could grow into it. 

The photo and the accompanying words would provide an accurate description of the size, colour and shape of the bike, but that is about it. My first bike is likely very different from your first bike. So, rather than show you a photo, wouldn’t it be more powerful if I used words to help you conjure up your own image of your first bike? Then, my story becomes relatable. I can do this by saying something along the lines of:

‘Imagine you are learning to ride a bike for the first time. What can you remember about that first bike? Were the wheels shiny? Did you have stabilisers on the back? Or maybe you had a three-wheeled tricycle like mine.

How did it feel when you realised that your parents had let go and you were balancing and pedalling on your own? You were doing it all by yourself!’

The positive power of imagery

Once this imagery has been set up, I could then go further with a lesson or analogy about ‘letting go’ or realising that you are ‘freewheeling’. The aim is to create a feeling for the audience through their memories, allowing them to go back to that moment when they were on a bike for the first time, learning to ride and maybe feeling both excitement and trepidation. 

When we provide the audience with an image that they themselves have created, it is much more meaningful and also has context for them. They are able to access their emotions associated with a particular time and place. It is when we rouse the emotions of our audience that they become most engaged. That is how you take your words to the next level. 

The meanings behind words

Of course, words still matter. We should always strive to be memorable. But, if we really want to make a difference with our message, we must pay close attention to the emotions behind those words.

Our audience will remember the images that our words create, and being memorable is what we strive to be as public speakers.


Lisa Evans helps leaders and entrepreneurs to craft compelling business stories and become exceptional speakers. Lisa is a certified speaker coach, TEDx speaker coach, four times author, NLP practitioner, graphic recorder and visual storyteller, and improvisational actor. 

She has coached thousands of leaders across a range of industries, including resources, banking, finance, engineering, retail and sales as well as not-for-profit and community associations. 

If you wish to take advantage of a complimentary session in order to chat about how you can become an exceptional and successful speaker with a stand-out brand, then use this link to book a time to chat.

Here’s how I may help you 

How may I help you to improve at public speaking?

Resources to get you started

8 Storytelling Basics – if you wish to get started using stories in your presentation this is a good place to begin.

How to Win Hearts and Minds. Tips for Speaking Persuasively

When you fail at public speaking – how to pick yourself up

Your Leadership Voice – learn to use your voice to make an impact

Is working with a coach right for you?

If you are ready to take your skills to the next level and become an extraordinary presenter then let’s chat to see if I am a fit to help you reach your goals.

I am an experienced and certified coach who specialises in spoken word communication, body language and business storytelling for leaders.

My coaching packages are bespoke, I work with a selected few 1:1 clients at any time.

If you’d like a facilitated session for your team, I offer half-day, one-day or two-day workshops on-site anywhere in Australia.

Applications Open

2-Day Speak Like a Leader™ intensive experiential speaking and business storytelling professional development for senior leaders, entrepreneurs and executives.

Only 8 participants on each course. Includes a SoundBite for Leaders™ 1:1 session for a limited time – Contact me to find out more.


About the author

Lisa Evans helps leaders and entrepreneurs to craft compelling business stories and become exceptional speakers. Lisa is a certified speaker coach, TEDx speaker coach, four times author, NLP practitioner, graphic recorder and visual storyteller, and improvisational actor. 

She has coached thousands of leaders across a range of industries, including resources, banking, finance, engineering, retail and sales as well as not-for-profit and community associations. 

If you wish to take advantage of a complimentary session in order to chat about how you can become an exceptional and successful speaker with a stand-out brand, then use this link to book a time to chat.

Here’s how I may help you 

Resources to get you started

8 Storytelling Basics – if you wish to get started using stories in your presentation this is a good place to begin.

How to Win Hearts and Minds. Tips for Speaking Persuasively

When you fail at public speaking – how to pick yourself up

Your Leadership Voice – learn to use your voice to make an impact

Is working with a coach right for you?

If you are ready to take your skills to the next level and become an extraordinary presenter then let’s chat to see if I am a fit to help you reach your goals.

I am an experienced and certified coach who specialises in spoken word communication, body language and business storytelling for leaders.

My coaching packages are bespoke, I work with a selected few 1:1 clients at any time.

If you’d like a facilitated session for your team, I offer half-day, one-day or two-day workshops on-site anywhere in Australia.

Applications Open

2-Day Speak Like a Leader™ intensive experiential speaking and business storytelling professional development for senior leaders, entrepreneurs and executives.

Only 8 participants on each course. Includes a SoundBite for Leaders™ 1:1 session for a limited time – Contact me to find out more.


About the author

Lisa Evans helps leaders and entrepreneurs to craft compelling business stories and become exceptional speakers. Lisa is a certified speaker coach, TEDx speaker coach, four times author, NLP practitioner, graphic recorder and visual storyteller, and improvisational actor. 

She has coached thousands of leaders across a range of industries, including resources, banking, finance, engineering, retail and sales as well as not-for-profit and community associations. 

If you wish to take advantage of a complimentary session in order to chat about how you can become an exceptional and successful speaker with a stand-out brand, then use this link to book a time to chat.

Here’s how I may help you 

My services include: 

Business Storytelling Coaching – together we can get started to create your suite of stories. A minimum of three sessions is recommended 1:1 in person or virtually via Zoom.

Executive Speaker Coaching – if you have an upcoming guest speaking opportunity, funding pitch, conference talk or you want to be an outstanding speaker, we can work together on your technique. You will see the results after one session.

Storytelling for Leaders Interactive Workshops – This program is currently being delivered remotely.

Keynote/Guest Speaking at your virtual conference or event – I have several topics to choose from ranging from a 30-minute talk up to a 90-minute interactive session.