Natsuyo sitting on a bench smiling at the camera

Becoming a great public speaker takes great patience, practice, and perseverance. Even the most confident of leaders aren’t always the best speakers. One of the most underused public speaking techniques that I’ve noticed whilst coaching public speakers is using the power of storytelling.


Since last month, I’ve been coaching the CEO of a mid-tier accounting firm. They have a specific industry niche, yet they have global resources and talent equal to BIG4. 


This CEO has been leading his company for 30+ years. And next month, he is giving a final keynote at their internal event. “Final”, because he is handing his title over to his successor in 2024, and he is officially announcing it at this event. His biggest goal, however, is to clearly show the company vision and align all employees’ direction.


He leads a culturally diverse team of various age groups. 


In the first private coaching session with me, he spent almost 75 minutes telling me the history of his company, historic and current world events that affected the company, what’s happening in their industry now, and what has to happen in the future. He wanted to say it all. He needed his clear ONE BIG MESSAGE®. Additionally, instead of giving a big speech on all events in historical order, he needed to tell a story. A personal story. 


He was a surfer back in the day. We decided to use this as his personal story – using “riding big waves” as an analogy of where his company stands right now. In order to surf a giant wave, a surfer not only needs the right skills and right timing, but also needs courage, dedication, and continuous practice. 


His company is now facing “big waves”, and all they have been doing for the past 5 years are leading them to ride the wave. They are ready. The market is ready. The time is now for them to ride that giant wave.


The power of stories is not just based on airy-fairy tale magic, it’s actually based on science and how the brain reacts (and remembers) narrative. When we listen to stories, our motor cortex is engaged, capturing the emotion of what’s being said. Oxytocin is released which has a positive correlation with the audience empathizing with your characters and story. This allows your audience to be more cooperative, stay engaged and therefore more likely to act upon your message. 


Here are just some of the things that you can do to craft a powerful story that your audience is going to engage with: 


Use relatable characters

Curate characters that your audience are going to identify with. They don’t necessarily have to be likeable, and your audience doesn’t necessarily have to approve of her/his behaviour, as long as they are interesting enough with clearly defined characteristics.  


It’s your job to allow the audience to visualize your characters through clear descriptions (how they speak, dress, walk, as well as their beliefs and attitudes). Give your characters memorable physical characteristics: profuse sweating, tall and stooped, a distinctive scar, a tattoo, a weird eye color, a patch of silver or white hair – the possibilities are infinite.


All good stories have conflict

Conflict is what gives the story shape between the beginning and the ending. Without conflict, our character’s success would be too easy, and they wouldn’t have strong motivations to avoid the negative consequences. 


A conflict could be an obstacle, a setback, and anything that holds our characters back from achieving what they want. 


Make the stakes high 

Your hero in the story should be strongly motivated to achieve their goal.  Make the stakes on this as high as possible. This helps create a powerful emotional link between the protagonist and your audience – they are able to relate to why he/she is giving everything they have to achieve the goal. It also helps to create tension in your story. What if they don’t achieve it? What if the stakes are so high it just isn’t humanly possible? 


Bring out your personal values in your story

Values add weight and impact which can make people relate more to you, especially if your values are aligned with theirs. 


It’s talking less about what we do, what we’ve done, and what we plan to do. But rather, what choices and events in our life led us here.  


If you haven’t tapped into the power of storytelling yet in your business presentations, download my FREE Guide: The 6C’s of Strategic Storytelling™ to get started. 


Don’t forget to send me your 10 minute presentation via video so I can give you practical and honest feedback. 



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