Making Good Speakers Great

The Power of Storytelling
Patrick Williams,

At we create and design slide presentations and we provide presentation coaching and training to both individuals and corporations. One of the many tools we tell our clients it’s vital they add to their presentations toolbox is the ability to tell a compelling story.

Stories are memorable. In the 21st Century we are constantly bombarded with data and information. In a normal day the average person is subjected to around 5,000 advertisements. That’s an awful lot of stimuli coming at us. To cope with all that stimuli we’ve developed very efficient filters to keep out anything extraneous to our needs or desires.

In order to be a successful presenter and to have your audience embrace and act on your message you have to find ways to cut through those filters and convince the listener that the information you have for them is valuable and worth tuning in to. Stories help us to do that. By weaving your message into a story you are, essentially, painting a moving picture for your audience and, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Pictures are also much easier to remember than sentences and they remain in an audience’s consciousness much longer than the words we speak. Think of your presentation like it’s an oil painting or a watercolour. Your storyline is the preliminary sketch for your painting. The adjectives are then like the palette of colours you choose from to breathe life and colour into that storyline and give it a vibrancy your audience will respond to.     

Stories stir our emotions. Just as stories remain with us longer than information, emotional stories stay with us much longer than simple narrative stories. A well told story containing appropriate emotional content will stay with us for a very long time; sometimes forever. Think back to your favourite movie or novel. The way the story made you feel is often as memorable for you as the plotline of the tale or the characters you were introduced to.

So, how do we introduce emotion to our story-lines? The short answer is “with honesty.” The important concept to remember from the previous paragraph is “appropriate emotional content can stay with us for a very long time.”  When you are sharing a story, a metaphor, or an analogy with an audience it is vital that the emotion you associate with it ring true to the audience. For it to ring true to the audience it has to ring true to you, the presenter. It has to be an honest emotion you are sharing and it has to fit the context and the mood of the story.

It’s not easy to stand in front of an audience and share what we’re feeling. But, you can learn to do it or, more to the point, you can learn to allow yourself to do it. And, when you do, you’ll find that your presentations have a much greater impact on your audience and are much more likely to be embraced and acted upon by them.

Stories heighten your delivery. When you weave stories into your presentations good things happen. Telling a story tends to cause your voice to modulate according to the ebb and flow of your story. This adds variety and interest to your talks and makes you much more listenable to your audience. Think of your presentation like it’s a roller-coaster ride for your audience.  You want to make sure it has peaks and valleys; otherwise, your audience will become bored and tune you out. The forward momentum for your presentation comes from your choice of words. Just as adjectives add colour and vibrancy to your storylines, emotional words provide the momentum to move your speech forward. Imagine trying to say words like delighted, elated, fantastic, or glowing without feeling the surge of energy that accompany them. Just as you feel the energy surrounding emotional words as you say them, your audiences feels the energy surrounding emotional words as they listen to them.  

  • Stories add vibrancy to your presentations.
  • Stories that contain appropriate emotional content make your presentations much more memorable to your audience.
  • The appropriate use of emotional words will help to energize your presentations and energize your audience.

The 21st Century has been referred to as the century of the storyteller. If you want your audience to listen to your message, to embrace your message, and to feel inspired to act on your message, add storytelling to your presentations toolbox. You’ll be glad you did.  

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