How to be a compelling storyteller.

Stories have been told as far back as we can possibly imagine. Verbally passed down through generations and then spread far and wide with the advent of print. Storytelling is one of the strongest methods of communication around.  It’s a skill that every good presenter should have in their armoury, particularly those looking to develop their presentation skills.

To some it comes naturally.  Think about the entertaining party guest who can reel off one anecdote after another or some of the great comedians.  But for others telling a story is a big step out of their comfort zone. It does demand a level of confidence if you’re going to pull it off, and incorporate it successfully into your presentation.

So where do you start?

Well, a fictitious story has a beginning, middle and an end.  It has characters.  Importantly, a story will be based around some sort of conflict- a problem or dilemma that needs to be resolved.  A business story needs those same ingredients.


Your story needs to resonate closely with the core message of your presentation, and your audience needs to understand why you are taking time out to tell it.  If you are clear about your intention, so will your audience.


Basing your story on personal experience is always good, and often the easiest place to start if you are new to storytelling.  You can add colour, depth, and feeling to the ‘picture’ you create and it will sound real and authentic. But of course that’s not always possible, so be on the look out for interesting stories-in newspapers, on television, or even something a colleague or friend tells you.


Don’t get too woolly. Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth. Telling something exactly how it happened may become too complex, think about how relevant minor characters or details are-get rid of them if they’re not doing anything useful!


Don’t take too long to get to the point-2-3 minutes is enough to really engage your audience and make them want to know what you’re going to say next.


To do a really good job of telling a story you need to practice over and over again.  Speak it aloud-get someone to listen to you or record yourself so that you understand how you’re coming across


Think about your delivery of the story. Vary the length of your sentences, keep the energy levels up, know when to pause for dramatic effect.  Be an actor!

Want to find out more?

Doug Stevenson is a leading exponent of storytelling for business presentations.  If you’ve got an hour to spear, his talk at a Google event last year will provide plenty of food for thought. Or if you are pushed for time have a look at < – it is only 10 mins long.  Enjoy.

*Image sourced from Flickr



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