The Power of Storytelling in Presentations

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

When we were children, we loved stories.   If somebody said, “Once upon a time…,” you snuggled into your bed or into a comfy chair with your blanket or your teddy bear and got ready to listen. 

As we got older, many of us stopped liking stories because “stories are just for kids.” We don’t realize (or admit) that we spend time watching soap operas, medical dramas or reality shows because they are interesting stories and we feel connected to them in some way.

And in business, we definitely forget about stories. We think, “well, this is business. I have to be serious” and so that’s what we become – we put on serious clothes, wear a serious face and use serious body language (and sometimes seriously bad slides with lots of serious bullet points!). 

But somewhere, deep down inside, the child with the blanket and the teddy bear still likes to hear stories.

Stories are not childish. Yes, they work for children, but they also work for adults, even in business. 

Many cultures around the world transfer knowledge through stories. In our families, we share family history through the stories we tell about Great Aunt Betty or Uncle Sam in the old county or Mom before she got married. 

Stories help us connect and remember information and I encourage you to try out storytelling in your business presentations.

Outline Your Presentation Like a Story
You do not have to start out with “Once upon a time” -  just think about your presentation as a story. If we take the elements of storytelling and make the language business appropriate, we can tell the story of our project or of our company and why it is important or useful and how it is going to make life better.

Your presentation should follow the standard story outline:

·         Introduction: give the audience a preview of what’s coming, introduce your message and let them know how long you are going to speak

·         Body: your supporting points, which may include some characters

·         Conclusion: wrap it all up neatly with a bow: “Here is what I told you. Here is a reminder of my points. Here is one last restatement of my message” (or in other words, “and they lived happily ever after…”)

Tell Real Stories
And in addition to thinking of your presentation as a story, tell real stories, no matter what your field.  Craft a story using a real example of how you solved a problem, or how a customer used your product.  If you make sure the story is relevant and practice telling it clearly and concisely, people will remember it and the message you are communicating. 

Effective presenters know the power of stories.  So the next time you have to give a presentation, think of it like a story and also include real stories.

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