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  • Writer's pictureErin Bailey Lake

6 Keys to Storytelling in a Business Presentation

If you get good at sharing stories in your presentations, you can:

-- build a connection with your audience, 

-- heighten interest and hold their attention, 

-- and reinforce the key points of your presentation.

But storytelling can also backfire, causing your audience to lose interest.

There are right ways and wrong ways to tell stories that enhance your presentations. Here are our six keys to doing it right.  

1. Captivate your audience with a powerful, personal hook. Start with the takeaway, then say the magic words: Let me give you an example. The compelling part of a story is how people deal with conflict. Assign names and places to make the story come alive and to give it a sense of reality.  

2. If you need a visual to support the story, use a picture – so the audience is focused on you and not the screen.

3. Keep it brief. This is an anecdote – not a novel. Like any good story, it should have a beginning, middle and end. Tell the story in under 60 seconds. Tip: Script the story and practice it aloud. 

4. Connect the story clearly to your point. You’re telling this story because it supports your core message. Your story doesn’t always have to have a happy ending. Actually, we can learn a lot from a story about a failure. It teaches us what NOT to do. Use the last line of the story to restate the takeaway.  

5. Pack your stories with emotion. In your presentation, you want your audience to LEARN something or DO something. But in your stories, you want your audience to FEEL something. Use your voice, body language, and gestures to add emotional power that resonates with your audience. 

6. Consider what types of stories may be appropriate for your topic and your audience. Humor can work wonders, if it’s appropriate. (The safest humor is always directed at yourself.) But if you’re announcing layoffs or product launch delays, don’t try to soften the blow with humor. Instead, maybe tell a story about turning adversity into opportunity. 

BONUS: When you reach the end, stop. The most common fault of storytellers is they drag out the story and don’t how to end it. Overcome this by scripting your story.  Then practice the story. Time it.  Master it. And when you get to the end, STOP.  Then move on with your CORE message. 

In summary, storytelling is a skill – not a talent. Some people may be better storytellers than others. But even if you think you’re not good at it, you can get way better through skill practice. 

Let me give you an example: Last year, we worked with a speaker who was asked to address a graduating class. She was terrified. Together, we created a story about her reaction to the commencement speaker at her own graduation 20 years ago. It was both funny and poignant.  And the audience gave her a standing ovation. 

We can’t promise you a standing ovation. But we can promise to make you a better storyteller.  Contact us:

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