The Engaging Speaker shares relevant personal anecdotes that support a message

Find your personal anecdotes

I recently went to renew my work visa. While changing metro lines I was walking along reading The Economist. I boarded the metro going the wrong direction. By the time I changed back and got to the train station, I missed my train by 2 minutes. I went to change my ticket for a later one and the ticketing system crashed. When I arrived in Suzhou, the taxi took me to the wrong road. Later in the day another taxi couldn’t find the government building. After completing one process, the lift went up instead of down. Unexpectedly, the payment process changed to credit card only, no cash. As I was taking the urgent track I had to pay an additional fee; cash no card.

Throughout this experience I didn’t get too stressed. In fact, despite all the small obstacles I finished the whole process in two hours. Having lived in China for so long I’ve come to understand that the best state of mind in these situations is to be calm and amused. As a triathlete, I’ve learned to race the race as it unfolds and not the one I had planned.


Taking the above anecdote, I could link it to several messages:

1. In China a calm state of mind works best.

2. A plan is only as good as how you react to changes in the plan

3. Be prepared. But be prepared to adapt.

4. Getting things done in China come with stress.


There could be several different types of messages that I could relate to the personal anecdote. Collect your experiences and think about messages that can help people learn from your experiences. People love stories and they’ll focus in when you tell them.


One final tip when telling anecdotes: add small concrete details to make your story come alive and feel more real. Mr Orange, played by Tim Roth, in Reservoir Dogs was an undercover cop trying to infiltrate a heist gang. The scenes where Mr Orange is rehearsing his story with his colleague is a great lesson on how to add the small but important details in a story.




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