Never say ‘Let me tell you a story’

26 April 2017  |  Category: Blog

the best opening for a story

You often see it in TED talks. The speaker suddenly says “Let me tell you a story. A few years ago…” and then comes up with something that has nothing of a remotely powerful story. What a missed opportunity!

The audience drops out

Let Me Tell You a Story has become a cliché. One speaker after another makes use of this unimaginative sentence. My advice is: never do this. Certainly not in a business context because the word Story is associated with bedtime stories that you read to your daughter. If you say “let me tell you a story” in a project meeting, pitch or New Year’s reception you can expect half your audience to stop taking you seriously and drop out. Just like the other half who just wants to hear the facts and figures.

So don’t tell stories in a presentation?

Of course you do! The stories are illustrative of the facts you bring. Moreover, stories make the necessary variation in a presentation. And… people love stories. Just pay attention to all those smiling colleagues. And to top it all off, they accept your message without protesting and remember it as well.

You have to do it secretly

You shouldn’t say you’re going to tell a story, you just have to do it. Just go tell your story and let the storytelling do its job. Tell people a story without realizing that they are listening to a story. Because they really love to hear a good story and go along with you to that period a few years ago, when that project of yours went so badly. You really had some bad nights back then. And you warned Jack not to join forces with that other party, but no, Jack did it anyway…

Halt, stop!

I just slipped into a story, did you see that? And you may be curious about the rest, but after a minute of reading you start wondering: why am I reading this anyway? I came for something completely different. And you’re gone. Okay, they stay in the room out of decency, but they have left anyway. So, you have to do something more!

Make them want to hear the story

Announce that you are going to share something important. Something that helps them. Something with which they will be successful. And then you secretly move into your story. For example:

“So, we all know that a lot of the team members are not enthusiastic about yet another change. We must get them along in a different way, to transform the resistance to intrinsic motivation. I accidentally learned to do this two years ago. It was an absolute revelation to me back then. I was involved in a project… “

And that’s where your story begins. Now they know something is coming, a lesson, something they want to know. If you give the story a good tension and tell it with empathy, you will get them on the edge of the seat. They want to know how it ends. This is a very effective way to announce a story in such a way that your audience will listen to you with interest and will continue to do so to the very last sentence.

Would you like more tips and personal guidance on how to present with storytelling? In the workshop Netflix-ise your Presentations you get it all.

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