How do you choose the right story to illustrate your point?

When I coach public speaking, I ask my clients to choose 5-7 areas of their lives that are meaningful and have impacted their development or journey in a particular way.

I call these areas “Pillars”.

Pillars are broad categories that hold lots of experience, so you can choose from those pillars to illustrate your point in your speech.

For example, My Pillars (in no particular order) include Music, Motorcycles, Martial Arts, Reiki, and Travel.

Each of these areas are rich in stories, and they all hold significant impact in my development as a person and human being.

Some people choose parenthood, others choose a hobby, or a profession/career.

The Pillars are a bridge that connects your experience to the audience.

Once you have your pillars narrowed down, it’s easier to choose a story from your life and experience that will help you in illustrating your point.

Your Pillars may also be connected – perhaps with an arch – that will illustrate your point with two different areas.

For example, two of my pillars – Music and Martial Arts are intricately linked, even though they are seemingly unconnected. I would not have enjoyed martial arts so much if I hadn’t learned from a young age to be disciplined in practicing music. And, I would not have found it as ‘easy’ (haha) to learn advanced singing, if I hadn’t studied martial arts for a few years before and concurrently with singing.

So, how do you choose your pillars?

Here is a quick and easy method to get started:

1. Make a list of all your major life interests, experiences, and hobbies

2. Start to group them into larger categories – like Physical activities, Life Experiences, Training, etc.

3. Assign an importance to each Pillar in terms of shaping your life – I like to use the 1-5 method – 5 being very important, 1 being least important.

4. Start to cross out the pillars that can either be grouped under another, or have lower scores.

5. Continue to narrow down until you have 5-7 main areas. These become your Pillars.


When you have your 5-7 Pillars, you can then begin to think about the stories and experiences within those pillars that shape you as a person and a speaker.

Whenever you get stuck for a story, return to your pillars and a story will come forward!

If you want to know more about how to build stories into your speeches, then check out Ready to Speak in Six Weeks, which is just as it sounds – six modules where you go through a process of building a speech from start to finish, how to practice it and more.

Visit to find out more. We start Monday, June 4, 2018.

Jen Lang, Voice and Communications Coach