Have you thought about becoming an influencer? A world class leader? Or stage performer that moves audiences and shapes beliefs? It’s likely if you’re on this blog you have. And if we’re going to manifest those realities, becoming a compelling storyteller is non-negotiable. Stories are the glue that hold together our social interactions. And the ability to tell stories holds tremendous social currency in our fast paced and ever connected social world.
Nicholas Arnold tells stories for a living. He’s a graduate of Vancouver’s Film School who went on to become an entertainer and successful filmmaker. Nicholas produced and directed his first award-winning documentary at the age of 14. Followed by his feature directorial debut, “The Vicious Circle”, premiering it by the time he was 17.
From conferences, fundraisers and public talks, Nicholas has performed at The Orillia Opera House, The Elks Opera House, The Grand Theatre and dozens more bringing his nostalgic style, charm and humour to audiences from allover. As a triple threat performer, singer, comedian and public speaker, Nicholas shared invaluable tactics on storytelling, adding humour into your next presentation and what it takes to be a solo-preneur.
Be an Expert
Audiences feel lack of preparation. They know the difference between a speaker who’s regurgitating memorized lines and the ones whose delivery is unconscious. “The biggest mistake you can make as a performer,” Nicholas says, “is being underprepared. You’ve got to know your shit.”
Wether you’re performing as an actor, comedian or delivering talks as a speaker, it’s necessary to be in the moment. Nicholas believes that the cornerstone factor to delivery excellence is cultivating stage presence. Stage presence is derived through emotion. And if we’re consciously thinking about our next lines we can’t be in the moment speaking through our emotional motivations.
His philosophy is similar to my interview with another comedic superstar Michael Orrett, as they both believe that flexibility in your performance is a sign of a presenters maturity. You want to be perceived as a professional? Know your talk so well, cultivate such a deep level of expertise, that no level of interruption, audience heckling or hiccups in your own lines can throw you off. When you know your shit, you’re transitioning from the realm of an amateur to a professional. You’re presentation gains fluidity and as a result you’ll elevate your stage presence 10 fold.
Want to see real life examples? Check out comedians like Jimmy Carr and Daniel Tosh. Anyone who can open up their act to include their audience in real time is taking on a huge risk! But when you’re a true master of your craft and you can banter and bounce jokes off the audience, the rewards are nothing short of world class performances.
Next, Nicholas was generous enough to shed light on the lessons he learnt about structuring stories as a filmmaker.
Without stories, your presentation has no life. An audience wants to know within the first 30 seconds of listening to your talk if it’s worth while. If you can’t capture their attention, imagination or have them thinking this is worth my time, than you might as well pack up and go home.
Nicholas wants us to start our presentations with compelling personal stories. “It’s critical,” Nicholas said, “to bring an element of yourself to your introductions and be genuine. Say things like, ‘when I was your age’ or ‘this reminds me of when I was.'”
Not only does it make you relatable and engage your audience, but vulnerable storytelling anchors emotions into the presenter audience relationship. Without emotion you’ll have your audience asking themselves, “why should I care about what this persons saying?”
To put it in simpler terms, one of my best friends and roommates, Iain Gabriel, is an excellent communicator and reminds us,
“Meet the audience where they’re at before you take them you want them to go.”
Once you’ve hooked the audience, anchored them with emotion and met them where they’re at, you’ll have the space to take advantage of the following two tips about structure:
- KISS aka keep it simple stupid – All stories are the same. They have three parts, an intro, a body and a conclusion. Or as Nick learnt through his years of filmmaking and acting, a three act structure. Act 1 introduces the inciting incident; Hagrid telling Harry Potter for the first time that he’s a wizard. Act 2 is the meat of the story; it’s the action or the main course so to speak. And finally Act 3 is the climax; it’s Harry, Ron and Hermione getting through the challenges and defeating Lord Voldemort. Keep it simple and don’t skip any of these three critical elements. See my favourite example of storytelling structure here.
- Do not rush through your key messages – Setting up structure allows you to identify where your key messages are. Some are in the incident incident, some lay within your body and others are the focal point of your climax. The key is to not power through them. Slow down, give the audience time and space to process those poignant ideas. “Public speaking,” Nicholas believes, “is like music.” There’s rhythm, pace and cadence and it’s critical that the music of our main messages aren’t being lost in the midst of the rest of our presentation. Clearly differentiate those main points by using delivery tactics like pausing, increasing or decreasing your volume and emphasizing those profound ideas with a slower pace.
Nicholas Do This Directives
- Be well read – Constant never ending improvement, specifically in your area of desired expertise will create a high probability of success. Now, impossible to guarantee anything, but if you explore high performers like Nicholas and those leaders we hold on a pedestal they all read. They’re always learning. Why? The probability of having that next creative idea, of delivering a better talk or maintaining an interesting conversation with a new colleague will be dramatically improved through a path of perpetual growth.
- Do the impossible – Nicholas is a huge advocate for using your talents to make a difference in this world. Talents are what help us bridge the gap between what is seemingly impossible to the done. In School a bully bet Nicholas a million dollars that he’d never make a movie. Now, with several movies under his belt he encourages us to do the impossible, to show others they can think bigger and ultimate move and shift the world in the process. Think bigger and start taking actions on those dreams today.
- Shift your mindset and develop discipline – Being an entrepreneur is not easy. No ones looking over your shoulder. No ones holding you accountable (unless you create that framework) and no one is cares about your success nearly as much as you do. That’s why it’s crucial we develop habits that serve us. Disciple, that forces new actions into habits. And finally the mindset that allows disciple to flourish and envelop our character and identity. The entrepreneur doesn’t have a choice to be disciplined, unless they want to remain starving.
Audio Time Stamps
- 00 who is Nicholas Arnold
- 1:40 the power of cold outreach
- 3:30 performance tactics
- 6:30 actionable delivery tactics
- 15:30 effective storytelling
- 24 using your voice for philanthropy
- 32 focus on discipline
Till next time stay on offence. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “you cannot change the destination of your life overnight but you can change your direction.”