How storytelling can make you a better presenter

We need to talk about storytelling. Why? Because people have been telling stories since the dawn of time, and according to research, it's still by far the best method there is for making a message stick. It probably won’t surprise you that our brains are wired to absorb narratives better than bullets lists and long informative texts.

So, wherever possible, try to find ways to include stories that illustrate your points. And when you can’t tell a story, you can still use story structure to help make your presentation more compelling.  We'll show you how.

Almost every good book, movie, or presentation follows this format:



“But I just want to spice up my monthly finance report, do I really need to use the same structure as a Steven Spielberg film?!”

No, you don’t need to use this framework for every PowerPoint deck you create, but there are some critical elements included here that can be help you take your presentation game to the next level. 


Who's the main character? 

One key takeaway is that stories tend to have a main character (the hero) and some sort of helper (the guide). We've all seen presenters make the mistake of thinking they're the hero of the story, up there in the spotlight with the mic and remote clicker. However, the best presenters tend to be those who see their audience members as the lead character and instead take on the role of a guide. 


How can story structure help? 

Good stories tend to have six or seven components organized in three main acts. Good presentations don’t have to follow the same format, but there are some things we can learn from the story structure.

Here are a few:

  • We should always move from one place to another
  • Shared problems/challenges can make great starting points
  • We should save the climax to near the end of our talk
  • We need to remember who’s the hero and who’s the guide
  • We should aim to resolve something or activate the audience to do so




Can your message be storified?

When you’ve got your outline together and know where to start and finish, see if your talk can benefit from storytelling. Our guess is yes.

2 ways to storify your presentation:

  • Use story arc to make it more compelling. You can achieve this by introducing a problem, challenge or concern early on, and building to a resolution or solution close to the end. Also, make it about helping the listener achieve their goals and be the hero instead of you.
  • Just inject a story or two to bring your presentation to life and make it human. Try a personal story or even a failure you learnt from. Or why not share a case study or a testimonial from a customer?


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Who wrote this?  

This was posted by Brad Hawkes, our Content Marketing Manager here at Pickit. He's not a professor of rhetoric and he's never given a TED Talk. He has, however, clocked up over 1000 presentations, seminars and talks over the last 15 years, picking up a few ideas along the way. He once spoke to a crowd of 5000, but mostly he's spoken to crowds of 5, and he's always looking for simpler, clearer ways to say things and get a message across. He also makes a fine cup of coffee.


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