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How to find and use stories in your presentations

By Jody Bruner

May 19, 2020

Presentation Skills, Writing Skills

How to find and use stories in your presentations - holding-lightbulb
How to find and use stories in your presentations - wave-lime-green-1260x540-1
How to find and use stories in your presentations - wave-lime-green-1260x540-1

Have you noticed that everyone is telling stories lately? Google “storytelling in business,” and you’ll find marketers telling brand stories, trainers using stories to drive their points home and structure learning events,  leaders telling stories to inspire and motivate, and presenters telling stories to bring dry content to life and engage their audiences. 

This doesn’t mean you should structure everything as a story. Resist the temptation to tell the story of how you solved your problem. Don’t describe your research and share your discoveries along the way, building to your findings. It seems a bit harsh, but your audience doesn’t care about your story and if you are tempted to withhold the ending to build suspense, resist! Your audience won’t stick around to the end because they only want to know how your conclusions or findings will affect them. 

Still, used with restraint, storytelling is a great way to drive key points home, improve retention, and engage your audience’s heart and mind. 

We’ve been hearing and telling stories since we were kids. We know that stories start with a stable situation. Something happens that threatens the situation, there’s a resolution and finally a new situation. The case for stories is bolstered today by brain science: when we read data, only the language parts of our brains work to decode the meaning. But when we read a story, the parts of the brain we would use if we were actually experiencing what we’re reading about also light up. So, for example, if we’re reading about a fist fight, our bodies brace with each flying punch. Because stories engage our feelings, it’s far easier to remember them. 

If you need to move your audience and make your key points memorable in your presentation, use stories. 

The best source for stories is your own life and experience. Build your personal story library by listing 

  • key turning points or events that have shaped your life or career 
  • books that may have altered your thinking or world view 
  • happy events and what they meant to you 
  • sad or traumatic events and what you learned from them 
  • mistakes made along the way 
  • funny or serendipitous events – both in your personal and business lives 

Think about how these events have influenced your life. How have they helped you enjoy success or learn from failure? What parallels can you draw between your past and present experience? How can you present these stories to inspire your audience to make the changes they need to find success? 

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