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Picture yourself sitting at your computer. You have just finished writing a very personal story to use in a keynote speech. You have gone through the process of building the visual details and incorporating dialogue to help the audience feel that they are witnessing the event. You have fine tuned your story by removing unnecessary sentences and adding visual words.

Once the initial editing of your extremely personal story is complete, you read through it; but you start to question its effectiveness. The story brings the audience on an emotional roller coaster, but when you visualize yourself as an audience member, you ask yourself, “So what?”

 The time honored method to successfully integrate stories into presentations and speeches includes:

1.      Make a point to help the audience grasp the purpose of the story

2.      Tell a story that your specific audience can relate to

3.      Identify how the audience can apply this to their lives

Identifying the audience “application” is a critical step to determine effectiveness. The method I use to make sure I have adequately identified the relevance is to read through my story and at the end of each paragraph, I visualize myself as an audience member and ask the question, “So what?” If I feel the paragraph is too much about me and my personal story, then I work to incorporate additional audience perspective.

The following video shows me practicing the story at a public speaking club. The story is delivered first where it is all about my family’s somewhat humorous encounter with my dad’s death. I have added two excerpts where I have added audience “application” to the beginning and also to the end using rhetorical questions. This story is still a work in progress and I continue to take it paragraph by paragraph to bring it more to the audience’s perspective.

To view the video click below or paste the following URL into your browser:


The following is the text version, the bold/italic sections at the beginning and end are my initial efforts to add audience point of view.

Dad Got “in the Doghouse”…the Day after he Died!

(Audience application addition) Have you ever had tragedy in your life where you felt that part of your soul had been ripped out of your body and that you would never be happy again? Today I am going to share a personal story with you to demonstrate that some of the coping mechanisms include finding strength through fond memories, stories, and even humor.

“If he was alive today, I would strangle him with my bare hands.”  These were the exact words my 4 ft. 10 in. tall, 100 lb, tough as nails mother shouted out the day after my dad died.  Only my dad could get in the doghouse the day after he passed away. 

My family was assembled in my parents’ bedroom, and on the bed was a little wooden box which contained my dad’s funeral wishes.  My mother had expected to find a final love letter amongst the documents- but instead of a love letter, she found a paper party hat and a cigar with a brief note which simply said, “Hey, I had a good life, celebrate it.”    

In my Dad’s funeral wishes documents, he specifically requested that the family go to the Lakes of Killarney, take a boat out to Brown Island where he used to fly fish, and throw his cremated ashes in the lake. He underlined in the lake. We did not go to the lake for some time since the weather was so bad. 

My elder sister kept his ashes in her house, but one day she went into the living room and found her 3 year old son Simon with the ashes in a mound on the carpet. He was making little sand castles decorated with leaves, twigs and feathers. She shouted at him hysterically, “Simon, what are you doing?”  Her anger soon melted when he replied with all the innocence of a three year old, “I am just playing with grand-dad Eric, Mommy.”  

My sister phoned me up the following day to tell me what had happened.  “Dave, it is ironic: a month before Dad died, he suggested that my carpets needed a good cleaning, and there I was yesterday trying to get all of him back in the urn, with the vacuum.” 

Eventually, my family went to Brown Island on Lake Killarney. We had a picnic, the atmosphere was jovial, and the sun was shining.

As the sun started to set, we assembled at the water’s edge.  The atmosphere became solemn.  Poor little 3 year old Simon had tears in his eyes- he couldn’t understand why we were throwing away Granddad. 

My mother took the urn and held it up high (as high as a 4 ft. 10 in. woman can hold an urn). She flung the ashes up in the air towards the water, at exactly the same time as a gust of wind blew onshore.  Every single piece of ash ended up on the island.  They did not quite go “in the lake” as my father had specifically requested. 

(Audience application addition) What tragedy have you had in your life, did you wake up one morning to face the fact that a loved one had passed, have you gone through divorce, cancer, financial ruin? We will all have to deal with tragedy at some time or another, and it is important to realize that one of the coping mechanisms is to find strength in fond memories, stories and even humor.

When I think of my dad in heaven, I see him beside a big lake with his best fly fishing rod in one hand and a nice creamy pint of Guinness in the other.  He is laughing at me and with a big sarcastic smile he shouts, “Hey, Davy boy, in the lake, in the lake! I wanted my ashes thrown in the lake, not in a vacuum cleaner, not put on the island, in the lake! You’re a bunch of nincompoops; you couldn’t organize a party in the Guinness Brewery! Life is precious, Davy boy, celebrate it.”