By Michelle Favalora
The Hoffman Agency, San Jose
Recently, my family and I went on a vacation to Florida where we enjoyed some time at the beach and Disney World.
One of my favorite memories – and communications lessons – was a Jet Ski excursion through the Everglades.
Before we embarked on the tour, our guide Mac led us through a surprisingly entertaining overview of the Jet Ski safety procedures.
I noticed he employed a few storytelling techniques to better engage with the tour group – a pleasant contrast from the typically boring introductions. These qualities, such as humor, wit and relevance, made for one of the most enjoyable safety demonstrations I’ve ever seen.
Here’s an in-depth look at “Mac, the tour guide’s” storytelling skills, and some tips on how you can improve your communication skills.
1. Be funny.
Sprinkle some humorous anecdotes or one-liners into your story to liven up your communications.
While Mac was outlining the safety procedures, he would repeatedly make funny references to lighten the mood. In fact, he began his presentation by suggesting the group laugh at his jokes, and would then pause for laughter to break up the monotony. When demonstrating hand motions to show you’re slowing down your vehicle, he threw in a few gestures umpires use in baseball to get a laugh from the crowd.
While humor may not always be appropriate, it often puts a human face to a message and perks up the ears of the audience.
2. Be succinct.
What’s better than short? Shorter.
Mac went through all of the safety procedures in rapid time, recognizing the audience’s desire to get it over with and working with us to finish the presentation quickly.
It’s good practice to review your message and trim down excess information. While your audience may be willing to hear what you have to say, be considerate of their needs, keeping your message whittled down to top-priority points.
3. Be pertinent.
Provide your audience with only information that is necessary or useful to them.
Since it would be our first time taking Jet Skis into the Everglades, we recognized the importance of hearing the safety information, so we could use proper protocol in case of animal sightings, breaks and emergencies.
If the pertinence of your message isn’t as obvious as safety instructions, take a moment to identify the key takeaways. What will your audience find most helpful? Consider reshaping your message around a statistic or a point that will resonate with them.
We’re beginning to see organizations steer clear of the typically boring safety instructions video – with Delta Airlines and Virgin America stealing the show. Delta created an ’80s-themed in-flight safety video, receiving more than 1 million views on YouTube. You can check out their safety video here. My personal favorite, Virgin America shared their safety tips in an entertaining music video, garnering more than 9 million YouTube views.
If you want your audience to listen, make sure you’re considering these three techniques when creating your message. If all else fails, you can always add an adorable baby meme.