9 Storytelling Approaches For Your Next Speech or Presentation

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storytelling approaches for speeches

Storytelling is an ancient art form and a valuable form of human experiences. It is an interactive art of using words and actions to unravel the elements and images of a story while encouraging the listener’s imagination.

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.”

Robert McKee

Public speaking has become an integral part of our professional life, as it is a great way to speak directly to your target audience and perhaps push your business ideas and make valuable personal connections.

Storytelling is the focal point of any successful speech or presentation. In contrast, most of the sales presentations and pitches fail due to their lack of ability to narrate a story, as you are unable to break down the wall between you and your audience and get them to care and invest in your message.

But why is storytelling so important?

Well, we all love listening to stories, as our brains have an embedded need for narrative, whether it’s schemas, scripts, or metaphors. In short, stories are how we think and make sense of the world around us, and this extends to business concepts as well.

This hidden power of storytelling can influence the way we make decisions and persuade others of our ideas. While delivering a speech, stories are the most effective way of organizing information, as it is a powerful form of communication that translates ideas and moves people to action.

Empathy is one of the greatest tools to build a rapport with your audience and it is only possible via storytelling.

Here, at Frantically Speaking we have compiled some fundamental ways on how you can deliver your PowerPoint Presentation/ Speech by stealing one of these classic storytelling techniques:

1.  Monomyth – The Hero’s Journey

It is one of the popular forms of story structure. In this structure a hero goes on a challenging and adventurous journey– moves from certainty to uncertainty– and returns home with newly found wisdom.

Monomyth can be of great help in the conversion cycle from prospect to purchase because stories are inspiring and it allows you to bring your message alive for your audience.

Japanese yo-yo-er BLACK shares his inspiring story of how he found his passion, wisdom and became a world champion.

Why does it work?

  • It engages the audience by accessing their imagination and making them a part of the journey
  • Demonstrates the benefits of risk taking behaviour
  • Evokes a sense of empathy in them
  • Deciphers the importance of learning new lessons and gaining wisdom
  • Finally, your audience sees the value of your product or service

2. Rags to Riches

We all love listening to success stories, especially when the protagonist has struggled from the depth of despair. Rags to Riches is a story structure that is built on the basis of how a person from an oppressive and poor background–struggles– attains wealth and status.

HSBC’s The Elevator ad shows the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, it is a great example of Rags to Riches in all its complexity.

Why is it beneficial?

  • It provides a sense of hope
  • It is relatable, as all of us have faced difficulties

3. The Mountain

Imagine climbing a mountain, you will know you can never walk straight up the mountain and usually have to traverse lots of smaller ascends and descends. Just as you “climb up the mountain” in your talk, you show your audience how you faced challenges and overcame them, all the while building up to your climatic challenge at the top of your mountain.

To understand this better, it follows the shape of a mountain, meaning it works linearly and allows you to build tension as you head towards the climax at the peak of your talk – i.e. the top of the mountain – before then relieving the tension and coming to an end.

It is somewhat similar to the Monomyth technique; however, the only difference is that the ending has a bit more freedom. For instance, after the climatic challenge, it is not necessary to have a happy ending.

Aimee Mullins uses a mountain-structure speech to tell her personal story – from being born without fibula bones in her lower legs to becoming a famous athlete, actress, and model.

Why is it impactful?

  • Emphasizes on how you overcame challenges
  • Builds suspense that keeps the audience curious
  • Provides satisfying conclusions to make your audience take a desirable action

4. Nested Loops

Nested Loops is a classic way to make stories more hypnotic. Here, you use the Zeigarnik effect by telling three or more narratives in a row. Psychologists believe that people remember interrupted tasks better than the complete ones.

In this framework, you don’t finish any of these narratives, by breaking the end and starting the next story. Once you’ve given the gist of all the narratives, you start to close your loops in the reverse order- i.e. the last story is finished first.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie used this framework to talk about her experiences at university and the way Africa is perceived in the Western world. 

Why does it work?

  • Portrays how you obtained your wisdom/knowledge through various interactions
  • Explains how you arrived at a conclusion or inspired to achieve something

5. Sparklines

Sparklines technique shuttles between hope and reality, where you and your brand promises to bridge the gap between the ideal and contemporary situations. Basically, you provide a ray of hope towards all the problems that we have in our society, personal lives and businesses. The presenter makes an emotional appeal, fueling a desire for change in the audience.

Example- Martin Luther King’s speech, “I have a dream” is very famous as he visualizes a society without racism and intolerance.

How does it help?

  • Emotional appeal is a secret weapon to getting into the hearts and minds of your audience and it works the best
  • Evokes a sense of hope for a better tomorrow
  • Prompts an action

6. In Medias Res (into the middle of things)

As the name suggests, you begin your narrative in the heat of the action rather than starting from the beginning. Basically, you launch your story right into the action–providing the snippets of how you got there. This works because you take your audience to the most titillating part which makes them inquisitive to know how you got there.

The Odyssey is the best example of this structure, as it starts with most of Odysseus’ journey already finished. The story up to that point is then told through flashbacks as we learn about the fantastic characters he met along the way.

Why is it impactful?

  • It is attention grabbing because you start your story with the most fundamental part
  • Suspense adds onto keeping the audience hooked

7. False Start

You start with a false/predictable story and then unexpectedly reveal something before starting the story with an altered perspective. You try to lure your audience by an untrue story and then ball them over by turning the tables. This technique is used best to describe a failure– how you dealt with it, your learning experience, etc.

J K Rowling shares about her time at university where the listeners expect her to talk about her growing success instead she focuses on the period that almost made her feel she had ‘failed’ in life.

Benefits

  • It relates to the audience when you talk about failure
  • Displays problem solving

8. Petal Structure

Just like a flower that has a lot of petals, this framework consists of a lot of speakers around one concept/message. It is useful to connect unconnected stories that relate back to the same message. The petals (people) can overlap, but each of them need to complete their respective narratives.

Simon Sinek tells a series of stories to help visualize his ideas, each one strengthening the message further.

Why does it work?

  • Provides a lot of narratives and emotional appeal around the same message
  • The audience comprehends the importance of your message via a series of stories

9. Converging Ideas

You can use this framework to describe the convergence of different ideas to form a single product or idea. It is an effective way to show the emergence of a product from the scratch.

In simple words, you use this technique when you want to tell your audience a story of how several branches of thoughts came together in a single idea. It is a wonderful tool to show your audience how great minds came together and solved a problem.

It is somewhat similar to the Nested Loops structure; however, instead of framing one story with complementary stories, it can show how several equal stories come to a single strong conclusion.

The science writer John Bohannon’s, “Modest Proposals” is a spellbinding choreographed talk. He delivers his case in collaboration with dancers from the Black Label Movement.

Why does it work?

  • Demonstrates how development occurred
  • Showing how symbiotic relationships have formed
  • Explains how to deal with problems

Final Words

Narrative technique should be chosen in order to deliver your main message and influence the audience. You need to develop the most appropriate technique to surprise your audience, make it easier to follow the flow, and reveal your message in a stronger way.

The impact and superiority of telling stories can hardly be overstated. With the new ability to skip advertisements, unsubscribe emails, your brand’s content remains the sole way to connect with your customers and build a long-lasting relationship. It is only when individuals know your brand, can entrust you with their loyalty.

For your next presentation, try one of these techniques to approach raw information and define a basic structure to communicate it in an effective and memorable way.

In the meantime, let us know in the comments below how you plan on telling your next business story online?

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