Jackie Kellso

The Art of Public Speaking: Show vs. Tell

In career, coaching, communicating, communication, communication skills, executive coaching, executives, people skills, presentations, presenting, professional development training, public speaking, public speaking fear, sales, selling, training, Uncategorized on July 13, 2009 at 4:30 pm

I was hit by a car at the age of 14.  I spent two months in the hospital and it took me two years to walk again without the aid of casts, crutches and canes.

True story!  But what’s interesting about the way I represent the story?  Nothing!

How’s this version:

I was crossing the street on a chilly, December afternoon, right in front of the Junior High School I was attending. Suddenly, a suped-up car with a loud engine came around the bend, swerving and accelerating towards my friend and me.   I gasped and yelled,  “Gene, hurry towards the sidewalk!  That guy’s out of control!”  Well, that was my last moment of consciousness until I awakened later that afternoon.  By that point, my eyes were swollen shut and I couldn’t assess the sounds or voices of my surroundings. I had no clue as to what was happening to me. “Mom!  I want my Mom!” I screamed. I was in the emergency room.

Do you want to know about my injuries and why I couldn’t walk for two years after that? My guess is you’re interested.

This is the difference between showing vs. telling (when writing) and speaking.  If you’re going to tell an audience about something, it’s the same as delivering a sketch or an outline of your point rather than delivering the essence and relevance of your point. When I coach my clients on public speaking, I emphasize this:  do not tell me about something.  Show me the story.  Peel the layers away and describe it; paint a vivid picture, re-live it in the telling of it.  Make me an interested party.  Draw me into your experience so much so, that I could re-tell it (or re-show it, for that matter) to somebody else.

Not only will your talks be dynamic and memorable, you will increase your credibility as a speaker.  Once you’ve proven that you’re experienced in your subject, you will have earned the right to make a succinct and relevant point, and your audience will listen and believe in you. (For instance, I will always be able to to speak credibly about how people can learn to cope with and overcome emotional and physical trauma.)

A good thing to do is to observe other speakers and determine if they are showing vs. telling. Decide for yourself what’s more effective. Your ability to determine the difference as a listener, will be a good starting point for becoming a better speaker.

Happy showing!


Copyright, Jackie Kellso and PointMaker Communications, 2009-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jackie Kellso and PointMaker Communications with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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