Some people are born storytellers, able to turn almost any event into a tale rich with character and plot, setting and theme. They use words well, vivid words, descriptive words, and are able to easily express their intended meaning in those words. You might be one of those people. If you are, though, you'd probably say that you weren't born to it at all, that your storytelling is a learned and practiced skill. For most people, it is.

Yet you've always heard stories. Some were traditional tales, folktales or fables. Others were stories that family and friends told; some were news, popular culture, or human-interest stories. Many of them were accounts of everyday life, accounts of life lived.


Use that familiarity with stories to begin shaping your own. A story can become the structure of your presentation. It can be used in the beginning or at the end or both. A story can be used anywhere in the presentation as case-study evidence, as an example, as a transition. A story can be woven throughout your presentation or just appear in one particular place.

One way to find an idea for a story is to do what we call "keyword searches of the mind." Make a quick list of emotions—fear, failure, understanding, confusion, joy, excitement. Select one, and jot down a few instances of it in your life. Then go the next step by jotting down some notes about one of those instances—who was there, where it took place, what actually happened. Use those notes to tell the story out loud to yourself or someone else. Listen as you speak; in a revision you must find the point or theme of the story.


The storyteller and some colleagues took a hot-air balloon ride during an offsite. They were laughing and excited as they crawled into the basket; this experience was new to them all. As they floated, they were enthralled with the view and the quiet punctuated only by the occasional roar of the burner unit as it fired into the mouth of the balloon envelope.

But when it came time to land, the pilot missed the first couple of fields because the wind had picked up, preventing a landing. He descended more to make the next field, dragging the bottom of the basket on the treetops to slow the balloon. Then he descended to the ground, skipping the basket along the ground like a stone on a lake. The basket ground to a halt and tipped over, its passengers spilling out like so many puppies in a heap.


Most stories can be shaped to have more than one meaning. The teller of the story above could revise it for use in a presentation about an unexpected situation or circumstance, about anticipating or preparing for a range of possibilities, about being flexible when taking on new things and dealing with them, about what can be controlled and what cannot. Perhaps its point could be that riding out a rough time has its rewards. In any case, the storyteller would connect his story securely to his message, making sure the stories are relevant to and suitable for the audience and the occasion.

Stories interest listeners, engage their emotions, senses and imaginations, provide situations and circumstances to which listeners can relate. Stories have a role in presentations.

Give them one in yours.