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Seven ways to use stories to make your next talk or presentation more powerful

March 1, 2016

No matter what the topic of your next speech or presentation, stories will give it more impact.

People forget facts, but they repeat stories. That’s why they should be at the top of your public speaking toolkit.

Here are seven ways to use stories in your next talk or presentation:

1. Use stories to make it personal

When you tell a story, the audience recalls similar events in their own lives and a bond is created. As a result, stories enable you to form a relationship with your listeners in a matter of seconds.

Storytelling in action

For our first example, watch Audrey Choi’s TED talk on making global capital markets catalysts for social change. Notice how she begins by telling her mother’s story to provide context.

2. Use stories to signify new information

Our brains are primed to pay attention to new information, which is one reason why our social media feeds are so addictive. The start of an unfamiliar story pulls people away from their smartphones and into the present moment as they are alerted to incoming information that’s new and different.

3. Use stories to be emotive

Stories appeal to the right-hand side of the brain, bypassing the logical and judgemental left-hand side. We make decisions emotionally, then try to back them up rationally. A story gives you direct access to that emotional decision-making centre.

In business, speakers and presenters too often try to connect with people only on a rational level. While your audience may understand exactly what you want them to and why, they will only act on your message if they feel emotionally engaged.

4. Use stories to suggest a different perspective in a safe way

Criticising an audience or instructing them what they should do, say or think will probably result in folded arms and mutters of discontent. But when you tell a story you demonstrate the consequences of an action in a way that your audience can learn from without becoming defensive.

Storytelling in action

Margaret Heffernan is the former CEO of five companies. Watch how she starts her talk on the perils of organisational hierarchies with a story about chickens.

5. Use stories as an opportunity to vary your delivery

A story gives you an opportunity to communicate with more than words. Your body, gestures and facial expressions contribute to the conveying of emotion, enabling your audience to empathise with the protagonist of your story.

6. Use stories to create suspense

You can entrance your audience in a state of tension until questions prompted by your story are answered. What happened next? How did it end? Bookend your speech or presentation with the start and end of a story to keep people’s interest throughout.

7. Use stories to be memorable

Lastly, sensory details engage our brains in a different way to plain data. They are cemented into memory for longer. Include details that add to the atmosphere of your story, such as any colours, smells or sights that will help your audience visualise the scenes you describe.

Storytelling in action

As our final example, watch how Simon Sinek sets the scene with a story in his talk on why great leaders make employees feel secure.

Start your journey to world-class public speaking skills now

First, download our free ebook to start your journey towards becoming a Powerful Presenter.

You’ll learn our 5-step process for transforming dull, forgettable and un-engaging presentations into your most Powerful Presentations yet: inspirational, memorable and persuasive.

It’s full of practical tips and insightful quotes that will help you make immediate improvements to your leadership talks and presentations, including:

  • Increased confidence when you talk and present.
  • Improved ability to persuade your audience.
  • Greater engagement with your audience.
  • Practical ways to plan and structure your talks.
  • The inspiration and motivation to change.

Download your free copy of our Five Steps to Improve your Leadership Talks ebook now.

What’s your story?

If you have an upcoming speech or presentation we can help. We’ll show you how to communicate clearly, confidently and with impact. And, of course, we’ll help you identify stories you can use and coach you to deliver them with impact.

Simply call Louise on 020 7193 0130 or email louise@nullbenjaminball.com to find out more.

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