AEE 1240: Keep Your Audience Focused on You! Spice Up Your Stories

Have you ever heard somebody use the phrase “lo and behold” in English?

Have you ever heard somebody tell a really good story?

If you have heard a phrase like this, then chances are that you have heard somebody telling a good story.

We’re going to look at the phrase “lo and behold”, why storytelling is so important in English, and what makes for a good story in English.

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Today we have a listener question about the phrase “lo and behold.”

Hello, Dear Lindsey, Michelle and Jessica!

First of all, I’d like to express my gratitude for your amazing podcast. It is the very stream of energy and inspiration I need to bring new colors to my daily routine. It’s a really useful tool that not only activates our listening skills, but opens new horizons through connection as well!

Recently I received a letter from my friend who is a native. I’ve noticed an idiom I had never heard before–“lo and behold.” Here is the sentence from the letter: “The band played two tunes and then lo and behold, a street brass band appeared in the back of the room and strutted up the aisles with trumpets, trombones and tubas.”

I’ve looked it up in the dictionary, but I would really appreciate it if you could explain the idiom with your examples. Do you use it, or is it an old-fashioned expression? Is it okay to use it in a casual conversation?

Thank you in advance,

Radmila from Belarus

Background For Great Storytelling

This is a great phrase that can be used for storytelling in English, which is something that comes up a lot in conversation.

You might not think that you will be able to tell a good story, but you will learn one key phrase that can be helpful to do this today.

“Lo and behold” is a great phrase for storytelling, and there are others like this.

We have covered other related topics and phrases, and these can help as background for you to learn from.

To hear some other episodes on this topic, there are a few.

Try one of these to get some background on this topic, such as:

These can help you to listen to and learn from when it comes to being a good storyteller in English.

In other episodes we have given you lots of phrases, but this is a good refresher because there are SO many ways to draw people into a story.

It’s crucial that you understand how to use them if you want connect with native speakers.

The Meaning and Usage

So what is “lo and behold” and what does it mean?

It means something was surprising or perhaps caught you off guard in a situation.

Something very unexpected came up or occurred and now you are trying to explain it in a conversation that is taking shape as a story.

The structure of this would typically be “X happened and/but “lo and behold” Y happened…..”

You might say something like, “I couldn’t find my phone, and lo and behold, it was in my hand.”

It can be used in other ways, but this is really the most natural usage in conversation when it comes to American English.

Great Storytelling Can Be Yours

As storytellers, we have to guide listeners on our journey.

We have to draw them in and lead them through our story, aiming to keep their attention throughout.

This happens quite naturally and is a part of having conversations and making connections.

How are you going to get your audience interested in a story?

  1. Make them feel present: Sometimes use the present tense as we have talked about before. This keeps things interesting and ensures that the listener feels a part of the story. Example: “So I’m in the garden watching a group of squirrels and lo and behold they took my food!”
  2. Give them an image of what happened: In other words, be descriptive! You almost want to paint a picture with your words. This is something that every good storyteller learns to do. What color were things? What did something smell like? What did someone look like? The more details the better.
  3. Include them: To keep it interesting, you want to include your audience in the story. Talk about things that you know they have experience in such as “you’ve done this…” Try to ask questions such as “So I was at the shopping center on 3rd. Have you been there?” Try to find some familiarity or common ground with them. Saying things like “That’s happened to you right? What did you do?”

Here’s a great example of how a good story could go and how this would look:

“So I was standing there in this incredibly long line. This woman with long red hair came up to me– she had on an incredible perfume, and lo and behold, it was my cousin! She was dressed up for a play and walking around with her castmates before it started!”

Roleplay To Help

Telling a story may seem like something that’s out of reach, but the details make all the difference.

This roleplay can help to illustrate how this works, and how a story comes together in English.

In this roleplay, Lindsay is telling Michelle a story about being in LA.

Lindsay: “So you’ve been to LA right, Michelle? (including the other person)

Michelle: “Yeah!”

Lindsay: “So I was on the beach. It was a beautiful day, sunny with a nice breeze in the air. The ocean was so blue. I look down and see there is a huge dog drinking water beside me–and lo and behold, Brad Pitt walks up next to me. It was his dog!  (present tense and imagery)

Michelle: “Oh my goodness!”

Lindsay: “What would you do in this situation?”

Michelle: “I guess say hi!”

Lindsay: “I did. And wouldn’t you know it, he was nice!”

You can see that the details and including the other person in your story really helps to bring it to life.

This is a great way to make connections, and it really helps you with conversations.

Takeaway

Lo and behold is a great phrase, and it’s a part of storytelling in English which is such a key connection skill. It’s also a great skill to have on IELTS.

We have done episodes on it before, and today we gave you some new tips and phrases.

You will find that storytelling is an important conversational skill in English, and so you want to practice it.

Try telling a friend a story today using these techniques, and see how naturally a story can unfold.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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