Impromptu – Storytelling (part 2) By: Kaitlyn Butts

“Once Upon a Time:” Storytelling, Impromptu, and Human Interaction

Once you’ve caught the vision and built a system, it’s time to develop a confident and persuasive impromptu style. It’s quite likely that if you’re just getting started with impromptu, you’re also new to the very idea of delivering speeches. The good news is that impromptu is the best way to improve your vocal and physical delivery. Storytelling is the powerful key in speech and debate that will simultaneously unlock your impromptu potential in four ways…

1. Storytelling builds confidence within the speaker.

For the young or beginning speaker, stories are a lifeline. It takes significant life experience and diligence to develop solid perspectives on the most difficult topics presented in impromptu. When I was 12, there was no way I was prepared to present definitions of joy and happiness, compare those definitions, and articulate the impact of such a distinction. But I could tell the story of my youngest sister Lindsey’s birth and explain that joy is a wonderful attribute. I could share how Paul and Silas sang hymns of joy while they were locked in prison because joy is founded in our relationship with Christ. I could use a vignette from Little Women demonstrating that when we make sacrifices to bring others joy, we ourselves are rewarded. The simple act of having these stories ready to tell revolutionized my confidence level.

2. Storytelling creates emotional connection with judges.​

How do you show your judges the impact of a quote about loyalty? How do you address the topic of turmoil in a manner that awakens their compassion? If you want to establish the emotional connection that builds rapport with your judges, you need to tell them stories. Don’t try to describe the importance of perseverance. Take your judges on a journey with the inspiring stories of Henry Ford or Thomas Edison. Instead of stating that forgiveness has the power to change lives, move your judges’ hearts with the story of Rachel Saint, a woman who reached out to the hostile tribe in Ecuador that killed her brother Nate. Let your vivid descriptions of the pages of history reach out to your listeners.

3. Storytelling sets a commanding platform for analysis.

This benefit is actually rooted in psychology. When you begin to tell a story, your listeners are immediately drawn into the imagery. They release preconceived notions about your topic and pay attention to the example you’re sharing. Because your audience is already captivated, they’re going to be more receptive to the conclusions you draw. When we look to Scripture, we see that Jesus used parables as His primary method of teaching. By first engaging His listeners, Jesus prepared their hearts to receive the often challenging truths He desired to share with them.

4. Storytelling is the most effective way to share your analysis with your audience.

Storytelling leads to meaningful conversation. You’ve probably heard it said that impromptu is a life skill, and that is completely accurate. The practical benefits of impromptu could fill an entire article themselves. Mastering the art of telling stories leads to wonderful conversations free of awkward pauses and unengaged participants. We’ve all seen an adult approach a teenager and ask them how they are doing only to receive the classic one-word response: tired. Imagine instead that the teenager smiled and outlined the coursework they had been working on before explaining some activities they’d been participating in. The stories you tell in impromptu will form crucial conversational habits. Because you’ve practiced incorporating strategic vocabulary and pertinent details throughout your speeches, you’ll be able to engage in colorful dialogue. When I found myself sitting next to a distinguished humanities professor at the scholarship interview weekend at my dream school, I was able to carry on a lively conversation without any nerves. I was so used to telling stories in impromptu that I felt prepared to answer even his most obscure queries on the spot with clarity and ease. Had I not practiced impromptu so frequently, I feel certain I would not be about to enroll with the full ride fellowship I ultimately received.

APPLICATION- Practice story telling in everyday situations or questions. Remember to learn the art of story telling you must practice! Prompts could include…

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Where do you live?
  • Descibe your room.
  • What you did last summer.
  • Describe your favorite _________________.

Kaitlyn competed in speech and debate for six years in all of the Limited Prep and Platform events. Highlights of her career included ten top-10 finishes at the National Championship, including a win in Apologetics in 2016 and Biographical Narrative in 2017. She was delighted to receive the title of 2017 National Sweepstakes Champion. Kaitlyn will be pursuing a double major in Piano Performance and Communications at Grove City College this fall. She hopes to continue speaking competitively and pursue her passion for the art of communication through coaching. She loves to help students craft their Platform speeches with beautiful rhetoric and polish their Limited Prep delivery through a range of persuasion techniques. Kaitlyn is one of our Lasting Impact! coaches, scheduling coaching sessions now!

photo by: Hannah Seymour