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Deliver 3 Kinds of Dialogue? Yes, there ARE 3 kinds

© 2009 Kathryn MacKenzie. Used with permission.

Quotes of the month:

"The heart of a speech is a story; the heart of a story is dialogue."
–Craig Valentine 1999 WCPS

"Don't RETELL the story, RELIVE it!"
–Mark Brown 1995 WCPS

Opening: It may interest you to know that according to speaker, Patricia Fripp: "When you use no dialogue, you're really not telling a story, you're simply giving a report."

Promise: If you use continual 3rd person narrative format, your speeches will become too lengthy, impersonal and lacking life. The result: a bored, disengaged audience. On the other hand, if you balance narrative with dialogue in your stories, you actually invite the audience into your scenes and they actually RELIVE them with you in the present. The result: an interested, connected, engaged audience.

Roadmap: Dialogue can be used in 3 different ways:

  • character to character
  • inner dialogue
  • audience dialogue

Character to Character Dialogue:

If any form of dialogue is used, this form is the most commonly used- hypothetically bringing another character into scenes of your stories and giving him/her a voice by stating their exact spoken words. be believable by having characters act and react with emotion and body language to the particular situation in the scene; demonstrate a roller coaster series of emotions

use speaker's or recipient's name so the audience is clear who is speaking

use the vocabulary normally used by the real character i.e., age appropriate; create a slight deviation from your normal voice for character differentiation

to uncover humour, don't add it, find it in character dialogue and facial expressions as reactions to spoken lines or events in a scene

be careful to balance dialogue with narrative as too much dialogue creates a play
step out of the scene and talk to your audience to make your point of the story


Inner Dialogue:

This dialogue allows the audience to actually HEAR your thoughts.

 When you let the audience into your mind, they connect with you as they are hearing out loud your innermost feelings before, during and after the process/lesson you experienced in resolving a problem, overcoming an obstacle, or arriving at a solution.

Speak from the heart, not head. You may need to go to the edge with emotions but then come back to centre yourself once again. Make sure your words, tone and body language are congruent.

Audience Dialogue:

This dialogue allows the audience to have a voice and be heard.

"People buy into what they help create." –C. Valentine

Create opportunities for them to say/ repeat/recap your main points. They are then more likely to buy into and remember your message. Greater interaction also results in deeper connection with them.

If you want them to take part orally, you must train them to do so early in the speech, otherwise they will not feel at ease participating later

Get audience to say things

  • complete a sentence or phrase
  • repeat something after you
  • ask for the take away messages from your speech
  • have audience discuss with a partner
  • dialogue/question one person, making person a star
  • make the audience a character so you can give them dialogue

Want to make them laugh? Read their minds!! Anticipate what they may be thinking, tell them that you know what they are thinking. then tell them exactly what they are thinking.

Which form of dialogue will you try to use in your next speech or presentation?
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Kathryn MacKenzie, B.A., M.ED.
Certified World Class Speaking Coach
Presentation Skills Instructor
Keynote Speaker

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