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Section 23
Crafting a Story or an Example that Motivates Volunteering

Table of Contents | NCCAP/NCTRC CE Booklet

Relive the Feelings
Here’s another Advanced Speaking Skill.  I spoke about stories earlier; but this time select an example or story that you wish to "relive" with your audience.  Suppose you are telling your listeners about Thelma, a disoriented resident who attended Sing-a-Long, but never sang. 

You can tell the audience with all the cool disinterest of an onlooker for example, by saying, "One day Thelma sang at the sing along."  But it happened to you!  You may have had certain feelings which you expressed in quite a different way at the time.  This third person approach will not make much of an impression on your audience.  They want to know exactly how you felt when Thelma started to sing for the first time.  So, the more you relive that scene you are describing, or recreate the emotions you felt originally, the more vividly you will express yourself.   Now here's the story about Thelma singing, told with emotional color using the "5 W Formula" answering the questions who, what, when, where, and why described earlier.  It also ends with a person benefit... "a smile that lasted the entire day."

We have a Sing-a-Long every Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 in the lounge off of B wing.  About ten residents attend.  I don't play a musical instrument, so I use a CD and song books.  We have a resident; I'll call her Thelma, who has Alzheimer's.  Her family told me Amazing Grace was one of her favorites.  So when that song is played, I would walk over and sing gently into Thelma's ear.  "Amazing Grace how sweet thou art…"  Well, last week, for the first time, she opened her eyes really wide and started to sing!  I couldn't believe it!  I was so excited, happy, and startled, I almost fell back.  Do you know she sang that song all the way though!  I was so thrilled I smiled the rest of the day.  People would ask me, "Cathy, why are you all smiles?"  Some I would tell, "Thelma sang!"  Others that wouldn't understand, I would just say, "I'm having a good day."  That smile carried me through my drive home and when my head hit the pillow, I thought of Thelma and smiled.

Do a self-check
Before I go any further, I need to reemphasize the reason this idea appears in the Advanced Speaking Skills section of this Manual is that these are merely extra "bells and whistles" to affix onto your basic presentation explained in Part II.  By no means is "reliving" an experience essential or even necessary to give an effective volunteer talk.  As a matter of fact, "reliving" an experience can majorly backfire if you "over do it" and come across either like Sarah Bernhardt or worse still, emotionally imbalanced. 

Also, if trying to project emotion into your story feels awkward, uncomfortable, unsafe, and unnatural, you will transfer your awkward, uncomfortable feelings to your audience that may even become embarrassed for you.  So, do a quick self-check and ask yourself, "Can adding emotion to a story be something that can work effectively for me, given my personality type?"  If the answer is "yes" or "I think so," then give it a shot.  If the answer is "no, definitely not," skip this extra and pick out the techniques that suit you best.  However, a sincere expression of emotion is needed at some level.

Here's a pep talk if you are comfortable expressing sincere emotions in a minimalistic professional manner before your group. One of the reasons why we go to plays and movies is that we want to hear and see emotions expressed.  Your Volunteer Recruitment Talk will generate excitement and interest in motivation to act, hopefully by volunteering, probably in proportion to the amount of excitement you put into it.  So, don’t repress your honest feelings, don’t put a damper on your authentic enthusiasms.  As mentioned previously, show your listeners how eager you are to talk about your subject, and you will hold the attention and hopefully motivate them to action...  signing-up to volunteer!

You may be asking, “Where do I find my story to relive some feelings?”  Use an incident from the facility.  In it you describe an experience that taught you a lesson or had a profound impact upon you or was startling like my Sing-a-Long story.  You probably do not have to search long for these incidents because they usually lie close to the surface of our memory.  Our conduct is guided to a large extent by these experiences.  By vividly reconstructing these incidents you can make them an element to influence your listener. 

Build your example or story upon a single personal experience
Immediately after the introduction you wrote in a preceding section, you might start your talk with a detail of your example or experience.  “Yesterday at the facility…"  One of the reasons for starting your talk, after your introduction, with an example or story is to catch attention at once.  Some speakers fail to get attention with their opening words because all too often these words consist only of repetitious remarks, clichés, or fragmentary apologies that are of no interest to your listener.  A phrase like, “Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking,” is particularly offensive; many other common place methods of beginning a talk are just as weak in attention getting value.  Point to an Activity on the calendar you have unrolled.  You may as well start with Sunday or Monday.  "On Monday we have…"  Then begin right in with your example or story and you will capture the attention of your audience immediately.  If you want to take a different approach, beyond starting your story with "On Monday we have (activity name), to lead into your story, here are some ideas.
“Last winter I found myself…” 
"Yesterday at breakfast…” 
“Last July I was…” 
"The door to my office opened and … came in saying...” 
“I was at the Fourth of July parade last year with 3 residents and…" 
"I looked up and saw..." 
Remember the "5W Formula?"  If you start your talk with phrases that answer one of the questions who, when, where, what, how, or why you will be using one the oldest communication devises in the world to get attention.  In stories the words, “Once upon a time…” are the magic words that open the floodgates to a child’s imagination.  With the same human interest approach you can captivate the minds of your listeners with your first words!  Fill your story with relevant details as mentioned earlier.  However…

…Select details relevant to volunteering
At this point I would like to revisit the ideas outlined earlier regarding adding relevant details to your story.  As mentioned previously, the right amount of detail is crucial. Too little detail is too vague and too much detail is boring. Detail, in itself is not interesting.  The secret to crafting or creating a good story is to select only those details that will serve to emphasize the point and reason for your talk i.e. recurring volunteers.  If you want to get across the idea that your listener should volunteer, then the example or story you use, and all the details in your example should be concerned with what happened to you or the resident, which can be later tied into your request for volunteers.

As mentioned earlier relevant detail, explained in concrete, cololorful language is the best way to recreate the incident as it happened and to illustrate it for the audience.   Make your language related to volunteering as clear and explicit as possible.  Don’t say, “Help residents in the local nursing home.”  That’s too general.  Say instead:  “Sign up tonight to meet next Sunday to take 10 residents on a picnic.”  It is important to ask for an overt action, one that can be seen, rather than mental actions, which are too vague.  For example, “Think of us at ABC nursing home now and then,” is too general to be acted upon.  Say instead:  “Make a point to visit the nursing home this weekend.”

Think back to a particularly touching incident that happened in your facility that will also support your ending point of a request for volunteers.  Clearly, at the end of my talk, I can reference my Thelma story by saying, "Remember that sing along on Wednesdays at 2:00, if you'd like to help some residents respond, lend your voice to our sing along." 

Below write a story that you can reference later regarding your need for volunteers answering the question… who, what, when, where, and why: 







What benefit did you receive?


A Note about Note-Taking
Due to the history of the group you are addressing, some groups come with tablets in hand, ready to take notes.  Or, if you are seated around a conference or dining room table, taking notes is easy.  For whatever reason, if you sense the group is a group of "note-takers" there’s nothing wrong with telling your audience when and where to take notes as you proceed through your talk.

“You might want to make a note of this...”  Most people will do exactly what you suggest.  Just make sure that you slow the tempo a bit to give them enough time to write what you tell them to write.  More importantly, make sure that the notes you are directing them to take are worth keeping.  Based on the format I have presented in this Manual, it basically does not lend itself to note-taking. But if you have a group all charged-up to take notes, you might have them write down the day and time of particular activities you are highlighting in your illustrations, examples, and stories.

Forward to Section 24
Back to Section 22

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