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Defining Story®
Speaking & Storytelling for Business Success




10 Storytelling Tips
to Transform your Presentations
By Sally Strackbein

A speaker gave a presentation to a small group of business owners last year. Even though it was the right material for the right audience, that audience was bored. No response. No questions. No requests for follow-up.

He spoke to the same group's annual conference this year. This time the audience was
engaged, lively, alert, and asked questions. As he finished talking, they mobbed him with business cards, begging to be contacted.

What was the difference? The relevant stories we strategically crafted together.

As a speaker, if you're not telling stories, you're not making the impact you could for the audience and for yourself.

Here are 10 tips to help you transform your presentations by telling engaging stories:

  1. Tell your own stories.
    If you tell stories you heard somewhere, your audience probably heard them too. Telling other people's stories diminishes your credibility instead of building it. Tell your own stories and your audience will appreciate your novelty and freshness, making you the expert.
  2. Explore your personal and business history.
    Look at old pictures, calendars, or your journal. Make a list of memorable moments. Any emotional experience makes a good story. Audiences love stories that you may think are ordinary. Choose one story from your list to work with.
  3. Write your story.
    Don't just narrate your story in your head. Some people are natural storytellers and can wing it. Most can't. Write your story first before you tell it. Write everything down, then edit later.
  4. Keep a story file.
    Pay attention to funny, scary, embarrassing, or profound moments. Your life is a series of stories. Keep notes to remind yourself and make a habit to write your stories when they are fresh in your mind.
  5. Look for the learning.
    Don't analyze as you write; analyze as you re-write. After you have first written your story, recall its meaning. How did this experience change your thinking or your behavior? Your story can have more than one learning point. Choose one point. You can have several versions of the same story to make different points. Work with one version at a time and one point at a time.
  6. Use dialogue.
    Instead of, "He told me that I had spinach in my teeth" make it a conversation. Try, "He said, 'Sally, you have a big green chunk of something stuck between your front teeth.'"
  7. Make fun of yourself.
    Your embarrassing moments makes great stories, especially when you learned a valuable lesson from mistakes you made. Invite your audience to learn from your tribulations and laugh with you.
  8. Practice your story aloud to yourself.
    Read your story aloud to yourself. The first time, you will discover tongue twisters that make you struggle to get them out of your mouth. Toss those tingling tidbits to the trash heap. Better to tongue-tumble to yourself than to an audience.
  9. Tell your story several times to supportive people.
    Pay attention to what they laugh at. Notice when they lose interest. You may be surprised that your favorite part falls flat and they laugh where you least expect it. Ask what they like or don't like. Refine your story until each element of your story gets the result you desire.
  10. Relive your story and invite your audience to join you.
    What did you hear, see, taste, or touch? How did you feel? Everyone's brain stores emotion and sensory details better than mere facts. Emotion and the senses make your message memorable. Help your audience laugh, cry, or feel scared and they will never forget your fable. And they will never forget the learning point your story anchors.

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copyright © Sally Strackbein

Permission is granted to reprint this article in your newsletter or magazine
with the following byline and clickable link:

Sally Strackbein is a consultant, speaker and author.
To find out more about her programs and services,
or call 703-262-0361.

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