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Why storytelling is your golden goose when you’re writing presentations

Storytelling is a hot topic right now and for good reason. It works. From our opening line to our final word, telling a story is engagement gold. Whether we are presenting a Ted Talk or a Zoom Finance Meeting, storytelling is the magic bean it pays to seed throughout.

Once upon a time

Since we first sat round the camp fire together, we humans have been hardwired to store and impart information as stories. We make sense of the world when a beginning, middle and end is presented to us. In fact, our story recall is double our facts and figures recall. Numbers will fly in one ear and out the other, but a story that had us on the edge of our seats, lasts in our memories.

Stories build trust

Storytelling is deeply personal. We the audience, bring our own history and personality to the story being told and when it strikes a chord, it strikes deeper and more intimately than any other form of communication. This forges a real, genuine connection.

But what if your next presentation is data-driven, a little bit dry and doesn’t quite fit that fairytale mold? The good news is there are many different ways to build storytelling elements into your presentation, and create emotional connection regardless of subject. Read on!

Get personal

By telling a personal story you get the audience onside and build empathy. But remember to keep the story relevant to the subject and occasion. It may not be the right time to talk about your year backpacking in Europe and that time you missed a train in Prague, unless of course it shows your resilience – which is exactly what your presentation is about. *Lightbulb moment*

Story Elements

Every story needs a hero, an enemy and a problem to solve. It’s possible to create a story around this framework for anything and everything; throw in a bit of conflict and you’re set. Create consumer wars – a product, a rival product and a customer to win.

Create Suspense

Of course, you want your audience following every word you deliver wide-eyed and upright. Think about creating drama. Let’s say it’s a data-driven presentation, instead of listing figures, talk about what those numbers mean to real people. You could start in the middle of the action. Set your scene with sensory details. What does your hero see, hear and feel? Or slowly build to create tension. This is your stage. Play with it.

Keep it simple

Anything too complex and you’ll lose your audience. The story has to fit within the context of your presentation, and it has to have a point that can be easily understood. So, stay away from Game of Thrones style plot lines.

Look to the masters

There are any number of Ted Talks on the art of storytelling and how to do it best; but the truth is we like real life, actual stories. Like when Steve Jobs gave the Stanford commencement speech and told his story of how following his passion lead him to Apple. Or Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech, where he tells the story of what could be. Or JK Rowling, surprisingly, not talking about Harry Potter but instead revealing the personal failures that lead to a rock bottom, that she magnificently crawled out of.

Include a memorable moment

If possible, because it’s not always possible, every good story should have a *boom* moment; the plot twist, the whodunnit reveal. Try and build up to your moment to remember; a dramatization, an image, the one statistic that you really want your audience to retain.

End positively

We all love a happy ending. Keep yours upbeat, positive and we’ll all live happily ever after – and you’ll look like a presentation Rockstar.

Storytelling works. It grabs attention, holds attention and changes beliefs. Incorporate it where you can.


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