Six Tips on Telling Stories to Connect with your Audience

When I saw Kevin Roberts, Worldwide CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi speak last year, he said something that stuck: What our customers want more than anything else is a sense of intimacy, a personal connection with you and your product or service. 

So how do you create intimacy and connection in your presentations? 

What can transform your presentation from an ordinary one to a WOW presentation? 

One powerful tool is sharing authentic personal stories with the audience, which are relevant, connect you with them emotionally and convey your message with impact. 

Personal storytelling can build trust and connection, create a sense of shared values, and motivate and inspire your audiences. 

Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when telling a story as part of a presentation.

1. Link your story to the audience to help them connect with it: 

Example: Have you ever left a job to start a new career or business? You know that sense of excitement and anticipation you get when you’re starting a new chapter of your life? 
Well, when I was 25, I left my corporate job and decided to pursue a career as a professional actress... 

2. Change your voice and gestures to represent the different characters in your story. 

Example: So, you know how parents have a way of pushing your buttons? 
Well, last year I went back to the States to visit my mother, and we went shopping. 
I’m trying on togs in the dressing room, and she says ( I imitate her voice and facial expression), ‘Honey, isn’t that new boyfriend of yours a personal trainer?...Can’t he doooo something about that middle?’ This makes the line much funnier and more authentic than if I had merely reported what my mother had told me like this: , ‘My mother told me she thought that I should do some personal training to reduce my waistline’. 

3. Tell your story as if it’s happening now 

Example: So, there I am...I’m in the middle of the dressing room...and my mother hands me the togs... 

4. Invest yourself emotionally in your story 

Be 60% involved in the emotion of the story like an actor and 40% keeping track of your line of thought and direction in the story. If you put yourself into your story emotionally, it is much more ‘alive’ and ‘real’ for your audience and you too. 

5. After you’ve told your story, bring home the point that relates to your audience. 

Example: So, the next time someone criticises you, just remember that they are looking at you through the lens of their own beliefs and values. You don’t have to accept their comments as relevant to you. Make sure you run them by your own sense of truth and integrity. 

6. Tell self-deprecating stories where you are the 'fool' or the 'failure'. 

Self-deprecating stories are most effective in terms of humour and connection with the audience. When you express your courage to reveal your vulnerability, you connect with the audience's vulnerability, and they are grateful for the vicarious experience. They experience your pain with you and can relate to you more closely, and it stirs their empathy. 

Example: I tell stories about being teased in kindergarten, about an embarrassing sales experience, and an experience of being rejected at an acting audition. I balance these by sprinkling them with some accents of successful outcomes - but the self-deprecating themes dominate as they create the most humour, take the most courage, and produce the greatest connection with the audience. 

Good storytelling takes practice and willingness to reveal your authentic self. 
In the business world, authenticity is often lacking as people can often try to protect their status to ‘look good’. 

I encourage you to take a risk and give storytelling a go. The more you practice, the more you’ll enjoy bringing story into your presentations and the sense of connection that it creates with your audience. After all, isn’t personal connection and building relationships a large part of your success as a salesperson? It is definitely is a large part of what contributes to a happy, healthy, and successful life as well. 

Sally Mabelle, ‘The Voice of Leadership’ Specialist.  -  Inspiring clear, confident, and connected communication for personal, cultural and societal transformation.