Reliving Moments: a guide

  1. Summary
  2. Examples of reliving moments in speaking
  3. What are the benefits of reliving moments in a speaking setting?
  4. What are strategies to relive moments?
  5. Common questions
  6. Conclusion

Summary

Your ability to retell and relive moments of your life is one of the most fundamental skills you have. Indeed, it’s one of the driving factors that has allowed humanity to progress and grow since the beginning of time, helping us transfer memories and knowledge for hundreds of generations across thousands of years. It’s in your DNA to have a powerful response to stories; it triggers emotions that anchor key moments of our lives.

However, beginner speakers often overcomplicate storytelling. They often ask themselves: How do I summarize this part? Should I tell this part or this part first? Am I losing them? I don’t know if this is interesting enough? These thoughts often trigger panic and anxiety, severely limiting their speaking ability.

But if you’re simply reliving a memory instead of trying to orchestrate a powerful speech, everything falls into place without you having to think about it. You don’t have to analyze, make sense, or follow a structure. You just remember what it was like to be there, and tell it how it was. You’re running with the feeling instead of chasing after it.

When you’re reliving the moment, you’re focused on remembering and embodying what was happening, how it felt, making it easier to express your emotions (and trigger emotions of your audience. Most beginner speakers fall into the trap of speaking from an abstract point of view, focusing on intellectualizing what they lived. 

Allow yourself to relive the moment. Don’t focus on delivering a great story – focus on remembering what it was like for you.

Examples of reliving moments in speaking

To illustrate exactly what reliving a moment is, let’s start with the process of getting there. Most beginner speakers tend to tell abstract stories, merely a summary of what happened, or perhaps the biggest lesson they learned from an experience. But if you go a layer deeper, less abstract and more into reliving the moment, it’s easy to include more details of what happened. Ultimately, you’re describing what went on again, how you felt and what you thought. Here are some examples of summarization first, and eventually truly reliving the moment:

Most abstract: “We shouldn’t look at our phones while driving. I almost got in a car accident one time because I was texting. This is a reminder: don’t look at your phone while driving! 

This is the highest level of abstraction. You’re sharing the conclusion you came to from living this experience.

Still abstract: “This morning I was driving, and I looked at my phone. And then like, I almost hit someone. It was really scary.” 

That’s one level deeper. Now you’re telling what happened. That’s what a lot of people do when they try to relive moments. But there are still multiple levels above what actually happened.

Better, but still abstract: “I’m looking at my phone. Oh, yeah. I remember picking up my phone. And I was looking at it. And then, I just looked up. I swerved. I almost crashed. And it was a super scary experience for me.”

So again, almost you’re coming closer to the details, but the story is still missing something.

Reliving the moment: “This morning, I was driving my car. I was stressed out because I was a little bit late and I had this meeting coming that I didn’t prepare for. And I remember pulling up my phone, opening up my notes. And I’m peeking at mine, and I’m trying to be careful. But I also need to get these notes into my brain because I want to be prepped. So I’m looking at this. And I must have gotten lost in my notes, because at one moment, lucky me, I just looked up, and I was going straight into the river. And had I not looked up at that very second, I would be in the water. And I remember just, bang, pulling on the steering wheel, the car moved, I almost had the accident just because of that. But the second I got out of it, like, I could feel my heart beating inside of my ears, my whole head wanted to expose, I had to stop myself on the side of the road two minutes later because I just couldn’t get the adrenaline down. And I just that’s why I’m late this morning. I stayed 10 minutes sitting on the side of the road, realizing I almost died because you wanted to reread your notes before this meeting. Like what does that even mean? And so I, I had this realization, and I just wanted to share it with everyone. Hey, it’s okay, if you come 10 minutes late. It’s okay if you come unprepared. If the cost would be looking at your phone in your car, don’t look at your phone in your car. I almost died for all of us today.”

In this example, the speaker is simply telling the story of how it happened. Because moments are relived instead of merely described, it triggers emotions in yourself and the audience. Relive the moment, and let the story tell itself.

What are the benefits of reliving moments in a speaking setting?

Humans relate to stories because it allows them to experience what you experienced. You aren’t telling them what they should do or think; you’re telling them the experience that happened to you and how it made you feel in those moments.

What we find at Ultraspeaking is that reliving moments is the skill that unlocks all other skills. 

Storytelling in this way is a fundamental human experience. We used it to make sure others got the significance of us running into a tiger in the wilderness (and to avoid tigers); we kept using it to use others’ experiences to make sense of the world around us. Humans have been using this skill to relate to others since the dawn of humankind.

When a speaker truly relives a moment, all the other Ultraspeaking tenets just happen by themselves. The speaker will naturally vary their pacing, comfortably changing pace and tone to communicate a deeply human experience. They’ll naturally enjoy the experience of speaking. They’ll naturally access flow. They’ll naturally stay in character. They’ll naturally start speaking better. They’ll hit every single one of our foundational tenants if they can truly allow themselves to relive that moment. 

If you can unlock this skill, you will unlock the feeling of being a great speaker. And it’s just one memory away.

What are strategies to relive moments?

1. Storytelling is easy, keep it easy

When it clicks for people that storytelling is the simple act of going into remembering mode and recalling what happened, we often get the response “oh, I didn’t have to add anything, I didn’t have to make it into something more interesting than what happened.” You don’t have to make it more exciting, you don’t have to analyze anything.

2. You know the backstory of your insight, they don’t

When you share a lesson or other piece of information, you have the story in your mind of why this clicked for you. But your audience doesn’t. When you share a tip about why people shouldn’t look at their phones while driving, you carry the emotional experience with you of almost crashing because you looked at your phone. But if you’re just sharing that distilled lesson, you’re only sharing the tip of the iceberg. It won’t hit, yet you don’t know why because for you it does hit – it was terrifying for you! By reliving the moment, you share the emotional experience as well.

3. Use active language, use the present tense

When you’re genuinely reliving a moment, and not merely describing what happened, you’ll speak like you are in that moment again. For example: “And at that point, I looked at my phone and I was so disappointed.” Instead, you say “And at this point, I look at my phone and I feel so disappointed!” Talking in the present tense paints a picture in the mind of your audience, transporting them to that moment. It’s the last subtle change to get the last layer of abstraction away, so you can really be there.

4. The audience lives their own story through your story

One of the realizations every speaker has to go through at some point is that the audience is thinking about themselves while you tell your story. And that’s perfectly fine. In fact, that’s magical. You give the listener a story of their own, a story that didn’t exist in their lives. If you talk about how it impacted you so much to visit your parents that one time, the person listening might imagine calling their own parents and being inspired to do that. They’re extracting their own lessons. They live their own stories through yours.

For you, the message is to entirely focus on your own story and fully relive your own moment so that your audience can take away their own morals and lessons.

5. Tell stories about boring moments

An excellent way to practice great storytelling is to relive boring moments. Use the Ultraspeaking games to record yourself reliving a moment of your morning. See if you can enter remembering mode and feel what you felt again, without making it more significant than it was. Just documenting and feeling what was there is enough. If you can do that, it will be a piece of cake for moments that have meaning to you.

Common questions

How do I relive moments in the work environment?

In basically any presentation, there will be space for an opportunity to share a small anecdote.

It could even be in the introduction while people are getting ready and you’re about to start. “Hey, before I jump into this, I wanted to share this moment that happened.” Or you could say: “I’m about to share that this project you’re about to see has numbers that don’t look good. And from the outside, it might look like we’re not doing well. But let me tell you what happened this morning. I was on the phone with one of our clients, and…

You can always find something to say, some anecdote, some moment that will allow people to anchor them to emotion better. Maybe you want them to feel hopeful, fearful, or excited. Think about the moment that made you feel that way, and relive it.

It’s key to realise that everything you’re presenting is a result of your thinking process. So don’t just present the conclusions, relive the experience of thinking through the problem and arriving at your solutions, like you once did for yourself.

Now, you don’t have to do this for every data point, fact, or finding. But it’s important to remember the ultimate public speaking rule:

People ignore advice but listen to stories. They don’t want to learn from you, they want to learn with you.

What if I don’t remember what happened?

This is where the Ultraspeaking ground principle can help you out: Speak before you think. What we find is that students always know something about the memory they want to relive. And if you just start with the few vague details that you do remember, the rest will come to you quickly, because your brain is making associations with what you’re saying.

A more long term effect we often see is that, when students start to relive more moments, they tend to remember more moments as well.

Conclusion

Ultimately, storytelling isn’t about constructing this perfect story arch. It’s simply reliving the moment without adding something. It’s as simple as that because it always has been. Humans are wired to transfer emotional experiences in this way.
So don’t worry about the structure of great stories; instead, embody the state people were in when they were telling great stories. And that state is: being lost in the moment they’re talking about.

April 29, 2022

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