The Secret to Bringing your Audience into your Scene

Most of the time my job is to tease you and make you wait for the breakthrough point but today I’m coming straight out with it. As you may know, speaking involves creating a series of scenes into which we bring our audience members. But the question is how do we bring them into these scenes? Well, the answer is simple.

To bring your audience members into your scene,  you should…

Literally place them somewhere in your scene!

For example, listen to these five very quick audios and answer the questions that follow. Imagine you are in my audience.

[audio:|titles=Doctor’s Office]

Where were you in my scene?

Right, you were walking into the doctor’s office with my wife and me.

[audio:|titles=On my phone]

Where were you in my scene?

That’s correct, you were on my phone.

[audio:|titles=Passenger’s seat]

Where were you in my scene?

Right, you were in the passenger’s seat of my car.

[audio:|titles=Chicago Airport]

Where were you in my scene?

Exactly, you were walking towards me in the Chicago airport.

[audio:|titles=Leather Sofa]

Where were you in my scene?

Yes, you were sitting beside my wife and me on our old beat-up, black leather sofa.

Your “Re-living room”

 I once heard a speech coach say, “Don’t retell your story; relive it.” Absolutely. And now I’ve added, “And invite them into your re-living room.” In other words, give your audience members a place to sit (or stand) inside of your scene so they can witness your scene as it occurred.

Most speakers leave their audience on the outside looking in. You can have your audience on the inside living out the scene.

How do you place your audience into your scene?

You develop your scene and then you ask yourself, “Where can I put them so they see what I saw and hear what I heard?”

A huge mistake some speakers make

I’ve worked with many speakers who got really excited about putting their audience members into their scenes and then this is what I heard each time they started a new story:

  • If you had been sitting with me, you would have seen…
  • If you had been there with me, you would have heard…
  • If you have been walking with me, you would have felt…
  • If you had been…
  • If you had been…
  • If you had been…

 Stop! I created a monster! Doing it this way every time you start a story makes the speech stale.


2 Keys to Keeping your Scenes Fresh and Original

One: Be creative and mix up the way you place audience members into the scene. Don’t always use the generic, “If you had been…” Perhaps you can say, “Imagine being in my passenger’s seat when…” Another favorite way is to use a question and ask something like, “Have you ever had to sit on the middle seat on a plane…squeezed to death between two people? Well, I don’t mean to bring you back there but that’s how I felt for 15 hours.”  

Find creative, interesting, yet subtle ways to place them somewhere in your scene.

 Two: Realize that you don’t have to always bring them into your scene at the very beginning of your scene. There are times you can start the dialogue AND THEN invite them in. For example, remember the clip you heard that said, “If you had been sitting beside my wife and me on our old beat up, black leather sofa…”? Guess what? That invitation happens about a minute after my initial dialogue with my wife begins. It happens about a third of the way through the story.

So the lesson here is to mix it up. Mix up the language you use to place your audience members into your scenes. Mix up the time when you bring them into your scenes. And certainly mix up where you place them in your scene. In other words, don’t always put them beside you. Sometimes they can be walking with you, walking towards you, on your phone, on your sofa, a fly on the wall, etc.

Or you can use the following phrase made famous by Patricia Fripp: “I wish you had been there…”

Your options are endless.  

I’ll see you in my next scene!

Craig Valentine

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