better investor days

How To Tell Stories in Business Presentations

March 5, 2015

Use stories in business presentations

Last week I was at a leadership event.

It was about a firm’s cost-cutting plans.

The organisers had crammed the day with speakers, each hand-picked to inspire and motivate. The mood was intense.

Then, one of the keynote speakers transformed the atmosphere.

He said he was going to tell us stories.

Almost instantly, I noticed a change in the room.

Those who had been slumped in their chairs straightened up; those who had been idly flicking through the handouts quickly put them down.

The speaker had our undivided attention.

Get help transforming your talks and presentations

Here’s how you can use stories in business presentations.

stories-proverb stories in business presentations

Stories Inspire

He used a few slides: they were photos that helped him tell his business stories about inward looking clients who then had an epiphany; bold clients who let his firm reconfigure their offices to encourage creativity; disillusioned clients who had lost touch with their customers while chasing profits.

His session was lively, poignant and funny.

But, more importantly, this was the one session delegates were still talking about over lunch.

Get help transforming your talks and presentations

Stories in Business Add Authenticity

Telling stories in business presentations, no matter how dry the subject matter, will bring your presentation to life.

They demonstrate how you connect with your subject and help reinforce the point you are making.

Stories add an authenticity that both gives you confidence and gives your audience confidence in you.

Here are some tips on how to formulate a good, compelling business story for a presentation and how to tell it well.

Get help transforming your talks and presentations

stories in business presentations

Build Relevant Stories

You may have got a few laughs down the pub when you told that anecdote about getting stuck in the lift at a recent trade show.

But will that story resonate with your audience of investors, customers or staff? Will it set the right tone and help you get your message across?

I once hosted an event outside Copenhagen where a protected species of cattle roamed through the sprawling grounds.

The first speaker kicked off his session with a story about how the beasts came to be on this slice of corporate land.

As a consequence half the room spent the morning craning their necks to glimpse a bull out of the window, rather than focusing on the projected sales plans.


1. Use Stories to Explain

Much better was the bank executive who told of his own customer experience at a seminar about customer services.

He had popped into his local branch on a quiet Saturday and strolled straight up to an available teller.

She immediately apologised for him having to wait in line. Bemused, he replied that he hadn’t waited because there was no-one else around. The teller simply repeated her apology.

Perplexed, he eventually revealed himself to be on the board of the bank and demanded to know why she insisted on apologising for a queue that wasn’t there.

The teller explained that Head Office had sent word that all staff were required to improve customer service by apologising to customers for having to wait.

Furthermore, if employees did not comply with this directive then if might affect their bonus.

This story demonstrated how those at the top can make big decisions without knowing how they will be implemented. The executive presented it as an opportunity to adapt thinking at all management levels.

Get help transforming your talks and presentations Leadership Business Stories Quote stories in business presentations

2. Paint Pictures With Words

Remember, you are telling your story to make abstract ideas come alive.

Something I often tell CEOs when we are preparing for radio interviews is that since the listeners can’t see you, the trick is to paint pictures with words to breathe life into what you are saying.

The same principle applies when you are telling a story. Set the scene, be descriptive.

Get help transforming your talks and presentations

3. Use Emotive Language

Imagine you are at a retail conference talking about store re-fits.

There is a huge difference between saying “I walked in and the store was a mess which didn’t make me feel like shopping” and “It was like being in a teenagers bedroom: clothes were jumbled on the display tables, the racks were bulging with all different styles and sizes and it wasn’t even The Sales! I knew then we had to do something drastic to woo shoppers”.

Get help transforming your talks and presentations

4. Build Real Characters

Characters help tell stories too. Like the bank teller I mentioned earlier.

I hope that you imagined the colour draining from her face when he customer revealed himself to be a bank boss! Characters can help liven up data. For example, a recent BBC study revealed that men get more prize money than women in 30% of sports.

That is a big enough statistic to start a conversation, but it is much more effective if you can talk about women’s World Squash Champion Laura Massaro, whose prize money was half of that of the men’s Squash Championship winner.

Get help transforming your talks and presentations Quote - Use stories in business presentations

5. Tell Your Story Upside Down

Remember not to let your message get buried in a flurry of ideas.

Think about articulating your messages upside down: instead of building your case, explaining the background and then coming to the conclusion, say the punchline – the “headline” – first and then the rest. This topsy-turvy style draws the audience in.

Get help transforming your talks and presentations

6. Use Stories To Share the Love

Whether it is a good joke or a personal experience that led to a change in the business, the story you tell should always be true, but it doesn’t have to have happened to you to work in a presentation.

Think about setting up a shared computer file at work that everyone can update with various anecdotes that you can review before your presentation. Telling stories about colleagues can demonstrate solid teamwork as well as highlight that you, as a leader, are a good listener too.

Get help transforming your talks and presentations

What Next?

Next time you address an audience, use a story. Keep it simple, and remember the advice given to new Economist journalists: “simplify, then exaggerate.” Story telling is a skill you build with practice.

Stories will help you become a more influential and more persuasive. After all, facts get forgotten, whereas stories get repeated.

Start your journey to world-class public speaking skills now

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.

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

Find out how we can help you today stories-lived-happily-after

About Benjamin Ball Associates

Benjamin Ball Associates Team

Benjamin Ball Associates helps clients to communicate better.

Over the years the BBA team has coached thousands of senior executives globally to present powerfully. You get access to a transformational toolbox of techniques to help you become a clear, confident communicator.

We’ll help you create a powerful first impression that hooks and engages your audience immediately and we’ll transform you to deliver clearly, confidently and with impact.

Speak to Louise on +44 20 7018 0922 or email to find out more and discuss your upcoming speech or presentation.


Contact us to transform your public speaking skills

More valuable advice...

Fundraising Presentations: an essential guide for persuading investors

Mar 21, 2021

Your Essential Guide to Fundraising Presentations. Are you looking forward to challenging questions from investors, long days and multiple meetings?...

Read More

The Best Investor Presentation – How to create one – techniques from psychology

Apr 13, 2016

Five ways to create the best investor presentation If you want investment, you need the best investor presentation. But investment...

Read More

Why good public speaking skills make you a better leader

Nov 11, 2016

Do your leadership public speaking skills inspire, motivate and influence others? They should. Many leaders are nervous of public speaking....

Read More

Five Golden Rules to Create a Great Investor Pitch Book

Mar 10, 2018

A great investor pitch book is at the heart of successful fundraising. You use it to capture the essence of...

Read More

Why Body Language Matters When Pitching to Win Business

Jun 29, 2012

Better Body Language We all know that body language is important in business.  But how important? And does is really...

Read More

Private Equity Fundraising Tips from the Experts: Become a Top 1% Fund

Sep 06, 2018

Five Top Fundraising Tips At SuperReturn Emerging Markets in Amsterdam, experienced LPs and advisors shared their private equity fundraising tips...

Read More

How to create a powerful investor elevator pitch

Mar 07, 2016

A great elevator pitch is an essential part of your pitch toolkit Last month I chaired the Quickfire Showcase elevator...

Read More

How to prepare for media interviews

Jan 16, 2013

You must prepare for media interviews The excruciating Newsnight interview with Treasury Minister Chloe Smith this summer is one example of...

Read More

How To Write So People Will Read – 6 Great Tips

Mar 11, 2018

How do you write well for business? Could you be more impressive with better writing? These days, we are writing...

Read More

How well do you answer difficult investor questions?

Nov 16, 2017

How to answer difficult investor questions When an investor questions how you calculated your Private Equity fund's performance, how do...

Read More

How to Choose a Public Speaking Coach

Aug 21, 2017

How do you choose a public speaking coach? When selecting a public speaking coach or presentation trainer, you want to work...

Read More

10 Power Language techniques to use in your next talk or presentation

Sep 06, 2017

How To Use Powerful Language For Leadership Communications   Great leaders use Power Language. It adds interest and colour to...

Read More

What is The “So What?” Test? – And how to use it.

Dec 30, 2019

So What? is probably your most important question. When you put your talk or presentation together, how do you decide what...

Read More

Better private equity fundraising | Seven tips for first investor meetings

Dec 10, 2015

What do LPs want from private equity funds at first investor meetings? That's the question I put to the panel...

Read More

How do you pitch investors?

Sep 21, 2016

What do investors really want? Six tips We wrote this piece with our Private Equity clients in mind. But there...

Read More

Give high impact talks and presentations – 5 simple tips

Mar 01, 2017

Do you want to give high impact talks and presentations? Do you want to engage your audience? And do you want...

Read More

Business storytelling for better business

Jul 05, 2020

How do you use storytelling in business ? Leaders use storytelling so that audiences listen, remember and act on what...

Read More

How to Make Your Investment Pitch More Memorable – Six Tips

Mar 29, 2017

How do you make your investment pitch more memorable? It's a real challenge these days. Investors have more opportunities than...

Read More

Effective presentation skills you must learn

Nov 30, 2019

Your leadership talks need to be effective As a leader, every talk or presentation you give is an exercise in...

Read More

What do LPs want from your private equity pitch book?

Oct 14, 2015

A well-crafted private equity pitch book can make the difference between securing a first meeting with investors and getting a...

Read More