Words. Sentences. Paragraphs. Stories.

The most common style of public speaking, one that’s often used by politicians and is surprisingly common among investment pitches, is based on sentences. At the end of each sentence, the voice goes up a bit, the speaker pauses, as if waiting for an applause line.

I’ve even seen corporate CEOs be trained to do this, mostly because they lack the guts to trust themselves and their audience. It's my least favorite part of the Techstars pitch training, in fact.

The sentence is not a natural building block of public speaking, and it’s tiring, for both the speaker and the audience. It’s hard to maintain any sort of energy in either direction.

Building. A. Speech. Around. Words. Is. Even. More. Difficult.

The real opportunity is in speaking in paragraphs, or even better, in stories. The storyteller naturally engages our attention, and she matches her emphasis and cadence to the rhythm of the story.

Here’s how to know if you’re on the right track: if you stop a story in the middle, the audience will insist you finish it.

Isn’t that what you want?