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I came across an old Ted Talk by Julian Treasure on how to find how to make people find your speaking more interesting, so that they listen to you.
There were many techniques mentioned in that video but one that definitely I try and practice and teach is the concept of prosody. Now, what is prosody? The simplest way to think of it is to have a melodious tune to your voice and change certain emphases along the way of the talk you're giving or the conversation that you're having in such a manner that just the same way as when you're hearing someone sing a beautiful song and carry a tune, as they say, you're essentially doing the same. When you're speaking, you're carrying a tune to a certain extent.
Why does this work well? We are attuned, no pun intended, to certain tones of sound over our existence as a species. Certain tones and sound are melodious to us and others are less pleasant, more grating. For example, the stereotypical nails on a chalkboard. Very high pitched sounds hurt our ears.
So, we keep within a certain range, but where people go wrong is they end up speaking in a very tight range and that's what we call monotonous, single tone. This is part of what we call paralanguage or the effects behind language such as accent, emphasis and tone. So, what it comes down to folks, is we're trying to make sure that people enjoy the sound of our voice.
Every good story has a good ending, and each good ending deserves to keep the audience guessing just enough that they keep playing the movie or show or turning the page. That when you're having a conversation with someone and you know, let's say something happened the previous day, and you're anxious like, well, what did they say and what did you hear? They could be as terrible a storyteller as there is on the face of the Earth but the sense of mystery, the hidden ending, if you will. Is that valuable enough to keep one engaged? Sometimes, it is true! Think about the number of bad movies and bad TV shows you've put up with episode for episode or minute for minute, because you're like, well, what happens in the end?
So how does that get accentuated? You want to give people an idea of where things are going. And in the very beginning anything could happen. As it progresses perhaps the number of possible endings will be reduced because more things are laid out. More things are set in stone, if you will, and the characters have developed. You know things have occurred and that creates pathways and then it becomes kind of like one of those books, so-called Choose your adventure, and if you choose option one, flip to page 58 and then the story continues there. So, your mind is almost doing these bets as it takes in more information, could it be option A? Could it be option B? Could it be option C?
Within some parameters, this is the key within some parameters of possibility there is enough room for the imagination of the audience to exercise itself and work through possibilities. And like I said. Almost to a mathematical calculation of probability.
Lastly, we have to adapt to our audience by customizing the story and making it relatable. Stories are a commentary on people. Every story we read, we tell, we hear in any form, in any media, is some kind of way of thinking about humans as a whole. While you're telling your story your audience is taking elements of your story and identifying with them, saying “hey, I went through something like that” and connecting to your characters very personally. And you have to tell different versions of the story to different people. Not everybody has 40 minutes to spare for your 40-minute story, so it has to be condensed into a 4-minute version. And so, we have to, as storytellers have some amount of adaptability that. We can get to the main stuff in the time we have available.
So think about your audience, think about their time limits, think about their patience.
In closing – we have to give them a good feeling of contentment at the end. Now contentment doesn't mean that the story has to be happy ever after. That's not necessarily how things work. Contentment means that's its complete. All my questions are answered, for the most part. It's done, for better or worse.
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