Using stories in a presentation is easier than you think. It doesn’t have to be stressful—especially if you’re familiar with the tactics that make a good story. Follow these tips to use effective storytelling in your next presentation:

What is storytelling?

In its most basic form, storytelling is a conversation between you and another person about a problem you dealt with and how you felt throughout the process. When you tell a story during a presentation, you’re really just sharing an experience. When we tell stories, we give our audience a chance to connect with us both intellectually and emotionally. The creator of the Harry Potter universe, J.K. Rowling, said, “There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”

You can empower and motivate your audience when you share a story that connects with them. By sharing stories, you can help your audience understand the big picture.

Our natural instinct when giving a speech is to focus only on presenting facts and figures. Don’t give in by ditching your story. It’s easy for speakers to make the mistake of only sharing data that may not actually help the audience they’re addressing. You may feel pressured to only use charts and graphs, but remember that sharing your personal experiences can add to the facts you present.

Stories are a great way to communicate your big idea, keep your audience engaged, and help them remember important information. By sharing your experiences, your speeches will be more effective and you’ll be able to accomplish your speaking goals.

How to share your story

Don’t start by saying, “Hey, everyone. I’m going to tell you a story,” then launching into a long, pointless story with no purpose. There is a way to share your story without losing focus or losing your audience. Here are a few tips to follow:

  • Start your story as you would a conversation. Imagine yourself telling a story at a get-together with friends and family. You wouldn’t start sharing a personal experience with boring details. You’d start with a hook to capture their attention and bring them in mentally and emotionally, such as, “The craziest thing happened to me yesterday” or “I can’t believe everything fell apart at the office!” Think of a clickbait article that grabbed your attention—how did it pull you in? Use those same tactics in starting your story.
  • Set the stage for the audience and the story you’re telling. Paint a picture of the details of the story—the location, the people involved, etc.—for your audience to follow in their minds.
  • After setting the stage, state the problem you needed to solve. What was the issue that needed resolution? How will the problem you needed to solve help them relate to what you have to say?
  • Once you’ve identified the problem, tell the audience what steps you took to try to solve it. What did you do to find a solution? Did you experience failure along the way? By sharing your failures with your audience, you’re more likely to relate to them.  
  • Share the successful (or unsuccessful) outcome of the story with your audience. Use a metaphor to explain your main point and how the story ties into it. For example, you can compare your company’s growing pains to a tree struggling to compete for sunlight in an Amazonian jungle. You can compare your team’s ability to work well together to the “Dream Team” that won gold at the 1992 Summer Olympics.

As you can see, storytelling doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, you already follow these tips when sharing stories with your friends and family. Consciously incorporate these tips into your professional presentations, and you’ll become a more effective communicator.