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The importance of storytelling for effective presenting

Think back to the last good presentation you listened to. Was it at work? A TedTalk or video you watched? Perhaps a really good best man speech?

Now think about what made it so great. Did you feel compelled to listen the whole time? Was it memorable? Perhaps a little relatable, too? If the answer is yes, chances are the art of storytelling was used in the presentation.

Let's not get confused. When we think of telling a "story", our minds often wander to the likes of fairy tales and fictional narratives. To gingerbread houses and bedtime stories.

But stories - and storytelling - can be boiled down to something much simpler. At a very high-level, a story is a series of actions or events that contain a development between each, that placed together create a whole (the full picture, the story).

Storytelling is not new. It originated with visual stories, such as cave drawings and iconography, and then shifted to oral traditions, in which stories (especially those in poetry form) were passed down from generation to generation. There was then a shift to the written word and eventually print.

Today, stories can be found everywhere. Good presenters and public speakers should look to stories as a way to make their presentations as effective as possible. Remember, a good story will captivate your audience far more than a whole heap of stats, facts and information will (no matter how great they are).

Here are three ways you can use storytelling in your presentations:

1) Pick a central theme. All good stories have a central theme or character (the protagonist) that runs throughout the narrative. It's what brings the different events/actions together and creates a sense of continuity in the narrative. When presenting, you might want to think about what your central theme will be. What is it that ties all the different parts together?

2) Use the circular effect. We know that a strong beginning and strong ending is key to any good story. Even better is linking the two together - quite literally circling back to what was covered at the start (either directly or indirectly). Try doing this in your presentation for narrative neatness and audience satisfaction.

3) Build suspense. All good stories have an element of suspense. The cat isn't let out of the bag immediately. You don't know what happens straight away. Instead, you keep reading because you want to know what is coming next. Excellent presentations do similar. They hook you in, then keep you there, unveiling different parts to the story before coming to the crux of what it all means. This technique is a great way to ensure your audience keeps listening to you.

Want to learn more about how you can use storytelling in your presentation? Are you someone who wants to become better at public speaking? Get in touch for a friendly and accessible coaching session that can be booked around you today.


HelpMePresent is the tutoring of presenting. We offer flexible, accessible sessions that can be easily booked, including packages specifically for women, business presentations and workshops for employees. Click to book now.

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