“Facts are approximately 22 times more likely to be remembered if they are part of a story” – Jerome Bruner
The art of storytelling is about having the ability to connect and inspire people to change their minds or take a particular action by presenting a narrative they can relate to and visualizing themselves as the center of attention in the story.
Stories help people understand the world around us and make connections with others. They are also a great way to engage an audience and hold their attention. However, presenting stories in a professional setting has its challenges. This blog discusses tips and examples that will help develop storytelling skills as well as entertain and inform your audience.
What is storytelling?
Storytelling provides short but effective descriptions of ideas, beliefs, personal experiences, and life lessons through personal stories or narratives that evoke sensory details, powerful emotions, and insights.
- 62% of B2B marketers hold storytelling in high regard as an effective content marketing tactic. (Search Engine Watch)
How can storytelling add value to business presentations?
According to the Harvard Business Review, the greatest strategic benefit of storytelling is its ability to bring all your stakeholders with you on the journey.
Stories appeal to everyday human experiences that transcend time, gender, age, geography, and culture. For instance, every human understands hunger, thirst, joy, anger, hot and cold. Thus, storytelling is a sense-making tool that allows the storyteller to walk the audience through complex concepts or ideas to facilitate comprehension.
What is the value of storytelling?
A good story is a powerful communication tool that leaders and managers can use to influence, teach, or inspire people. According to psychology today, there are several psychological reasons why telling stories is so powerful:
- Stories are a primal form of communication that connect people to universal truths.
- Stories transcend generations; they are the common ground that allows people to communicate and overcome preconceived notions and differences.
- Stories help communicate how one person’s understanding of a concept, process, or idea works to others.
- Stories provide context and structure to complex subjects. This structure offers familiarity, foundation, and predictability, which helps us make sense of our environment.
- Stores engage the imagination; to the human brain, imagined experiences are processed like real experiences. Stories create genuine emotions, presence, and behavioral responses.
- Stories engage the right part of the brain, which is responsible for creativity and empathy. These thought processes are the foundation of innovation and change.
In short, telling a personal story is a engaging method of presenting information in a way that people can relate to. Stories engage the audience, evoke empathy, increase trust and motivate action. By working on storytelling techniques and skills, you will be more effective at persuading the audience of the value of ideas.
Types of Stories & Storytelling techniques
A personal story has many elements to be effective and capture interest. A personal account should have imagery as though you are there, every little detail of the event, names, dates, setting, weather, anything to help the reader visualize the scene and event.
Purpose: A personal story refers to a key experience in your life that you wish to share and believe people can benefit from.
Inspirational stories are tales of hope, promise, and encouragement. They evoke emotion in the reader, building a connection between reader and writer.
Purpose: an inspiring story is designed to motivate the audience with an emotion of positivity.
Engaging stories use sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, and temperature as anchor points the audience uses to relate to the central concept—for example, the hero’s journey, sensory details, and context.
Purpose: This story type facilitates audience engagement by making the story more real and relatable.
Predictable Stories allow the audience to guess what is coming next. These stories have repeating phrases, ideas, and concepts.
Purpose: A predictable story encourages memorization and learning complex subject matter, fact-heavy presentations, or essential material for a particular job.
Visual storytelling can help make complex stories easier to understand and, as a result, deliver a more impactful message. Visual content stories often involve graphics, images, pictures, and videos. This approach makes stories modern and relevant to the audience.
Purpose: Visual storytelling encourages intercommunication and motivates an audience to take action.
Linear Story & Non-linear Narrative
Linear narratives have a clear beginning, consecutive events, and a clear ending. In addition, these narratives have a precise story chronology. In contrast, nonlinear narratives might jump around to different points in time.
Purpose: Linear stories help the storyteller communicate a point quickly. In comparison, nonlinear stories allow for more detail.
A narrative point of view is the perspective storytellers use to provide perspective. For instance, stories are told in the first person or by exploring through the eyes of a selected story character.
Purpose: Viewpoint stories allow the audience members to experience events in the same way the story character does.
The 4 Ps of Storytelling
Storytelling can provide a relatable scenario for the audience to envision themselves in. However, before a story, the presenter needs to identify the people, place, plot, and purpose:
- People: Stories need characters, so the audience forms personal connections. Each character has a specific role, idea, concept, or journey within the story structure. The main character is the focal point of your story.
- Place: The location connects the audience to the environment, conditions, and mood.
- Plot: Guides the audience through a sequence of events and keeps them interested in what happens next.
- Purpose: Stories convey meanings taken from the ordinary world that help us understand events, concepts, and ideas by finding common ground with the audience.
How are storytelling concepts applied to professional presentations?
Here is a basic presentation outline to help get you started: Introduction, Objective, Overview, Presentation, and Conclusion.
Introduction: The introduction is essential to your story as it sets the tone for the entire presentation. Its primary purpose is to capture the audience’s attention, usually within the first 15 seconds. Hence, the first few phrases are vital!
Objective: The point of a presentation is to convince an audience of your ideas, and the best way to do that is to lead them to a conclusion through the persuasive organization of ideas.
Outline: A presentation outline is a basic overview of your presentation. It summarizes the objectives, key points, and conclusion. The outline aims to help the presenter structure and organize the presentation.
Body: Use the main body of your presentation to convey your main points and supporting information. These points are connected to the objective of your presentation. A minimum of three main points is a good rule to follow. It is recommended to order the presentation of your points in the following way:
- Second Strongest Point
- Weakest Point
- Strongest Point
The goal of this structure is to ensure that the first point captures the audience’s attention at the beginning. The strongest point is placed at the end so that the audience is left with a positive (impactful) impression of your overall story objective.
Conclusion: The purpose of a conclusion is to summarize your presentation, leave the audience with a clear takeaway, and signal the end of your speech. Effective conclusions contain three essential parts:
- a restatement of the objective or main point
- a review of the main discussion points
- a concluding statement that helps create a lasting image in audiences’ minds.
Example Storytelling Presentation: The Boy Who Cried, Wolf!
Objective: This presentation aims to demonstrate why lying is harmful and hurts your credibility.
People: Shepherd boy, Villagers, Wolf & Sheep
Place: Located on a sheep pasture in the meadow near a small village in Germany. It is late summer, and the time frame is the late-to-early 1800s.
Plot: The young Shepherd boy learns a hard lesson by lying to villagers, who eventually do not believe him. In his time of need, the Shepherd boy is ignored.
A shepherd boy looks after his master’s sheep in the meadow, not far from the village where he lived. A forest was nearby. The work was easy. It was, however, also very dull, and the boy had nothing to do as he tended the flock all day.
Then, on a particularly dull day, as he sat watching the sheep, as he sat watching the sheep and the nearby forest, the boy wondered what he would do if a wolf suddenly appeared out of the woods. Would he cry for help?
Point #1: The First Lie
And then, he had an idea for how to amuse himself during those dull days spent watching the sheep.
The boy recalled that his master, the shepherd, had instructed him to cry for help if a wolf ever turned up and attacked the sheep. The villagers would come when they heard him crying for help, and they would chase the wolf away.
The boy grinned, suddenly got up, and ran towards the village, crying, ‘Wolf! A wolf!’
Sure enough, the villagers who had heard him crying ‘wolf!’ ran from the village and out into the meadow. But when they reached him, they found the boy sitting there and laughing, and they realized that the boy had tricked them.
Point #2: The Second Lie
The boy was so pleased that his trick had worked that, a few days later, he did it again, crying, ‘Wolf! Wolf!’ Once again, the villagers ran from the village to help him against the wolf, only to discover there was no wolf, and he’d duped them again.
Angrily, they returned to the village.
Point #3: The Result of Lying – Loss of Credibility
One evening a short while later, as evening arrived and the sun began to set, the boy was watching the sheep when – to his horror – a wolf did appear from the forest and attacked the sheep.
Terrified, the boy ran toward the village shouting, ‘Wolf! Wolf!’ to try to get help.
The villagers heard his cry, but as they’d been fooled twice by a false alarm, none of them ran to help him, believing he was trying to trick them again.
The wolf ate a great many of the sheep before slinking back into the forest.
- This story concerns a shepherd boy who repeatedly tricks nearby villagers into thinking a wolf is attacking his flock.
- When a wolf does appear, the villagers do not believe the boy’s cries for help. As a result, the flock is eaten by the wolf.
- The moral of ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ is usually summarized in one sentence: Liars are not believed – even when they speak the truth.
The above example presentation can be modified to present training materials, product information, new policies, complex data, etc. Moreover, the example is there to provide template presenters can use to create their own presentation outlines and plans.
The art of storytelling can help you connect with your audience, entertain them, and inform them. However, it can be challenging to do well in a professional setting. If you want to learn how to present stories like a pro, read on for our tips and examples! Applying these principles will help you share your stories engagingly and entertainingly.
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