Is “how you say it” more important than “what you say”?

That’s what I’ve been wondering lately. The other day, I had the privilege of having actors work on my story. I was amused to see how the audience reacted differently when actors read it out loud. Some lines even drew laughter which didn’t happen when I told the story myself. The lines themselves weren’t funny; they were just research information. Then why did the audience laugh? That’s where “how to say it” comes in.

I used to say that what you say is much more important than how to say it. Non-verbal communication (body language, facial expression, and vocal variety) is important, of course. We learn its importance through Toastmasters, too, but when a story is captivating, these details seem trivial. Even filler words magically disappear while I’m taking a story journey. Then can we ignore the “how to say it” rules? We can’t. It’s impossible to separate these trivial elements from good storytelling because they can save or destroy what we say.

Non-verbal communication can be a huge obstacle to your story. When your facial expression or tone contradicts what you say, your audience get confused how to react. A beautiful piece of jewelry can be a distraction, too, if it dazzles or jingles every time you move. Any distraction can increase the time it takes for the audience to feel your story.

How You Say It vs What You Say ItWhen “how you say it” and “what you say” complement each other, one plus one becomes larger than two. It will create a multiplier effect that engages your audience deeply without their even knowing it.