How to tell a terrific story

Executive Speaking
Executive Speaking

Anett Grant has 40 years of coaching top executives, leaders, and emerging leaders from 61 of the Fortune 100 companies, as well as countless midmarket and small businesses from all over the world.

How can you capture the attention of an audience with just one sentence?

“I’m going to tell you a story.”

Yes, telling a story can be a great way to take your presentation to the next level. But if you’ve ever wanted to tell a story only to stumble in your delivery, you know that storytelling can be harder than it looks.

If you want to tell a terrific story under pressure, you need structure. Here is my 4-step process for no-fail storytelling.

1. Situation setup

The first step to telling a great story is the setup. Tell your audience everything they need to understand the story right in the beginning. Describe the general setting and other important details that establish the context of the story. Include only details that are vital for understanding the story — keep the setup short.

Example: “Many years ago, I was traveling in Asia with my husband. We took a China Air flight from Bangkok to Beijing.”

2. Build the action

The second step to telling a great story is to build the action. Now that you’ve set the scene, you start recounting what happened by using play-by-play language. Use dialogue to make your stories even more compelling.

Example: “We boarded the jet, found our seats, and sat down. A few minutes later, a flight attendant came by and gave us paper fans. I said to my husband, ‘How delightful! The Chinese are so imaginative to think of such a charming souvenir idea.’ A few minutes passed. The atmosphere in the plane became very stuffy, so I turned to my husband and said, ‘Could you adjust the air, please?’”

3. Climax

The third step to telling a great story is to deliver the climax. The peak is a point, not a plateau, so the climax should be short — typically one line of pivotal dialogue or action that represents the payoff the story.

Example: “My husband reached up. Then, he turned to me and said, ‘There is no air adjustment; that’s what the fan is for!’”

4. Wrap-up and connection

The final step to telling a great story is to wrap it up and connect it to the reason you decided to tell the story in the first place. How does it connect with your message?

Example: “So, it was my impression that in China, individual control is not a priority. How much of a priority is individual control in our culture?”

While you may not consider yourself a natural storyteller, that doesn’t mean you should avoid telling stories. By following my four-step process, you can tell stories that will add sparkle, connect to your audience, and enhance your speaking impact.

Executive Speaking
Executive Speaking

Anett Grant has 40 years of coaching top executives, leaders, and emerging leaders from 61 of the Fortune 100 companies, as well as countless midmarket and small businesses from all over the world.

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