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Why Leaders Use Stories in Their Presentations

By: John Baldoni

Leaders incorporate stories in their presentations to catch the attention of their audience. Besides, stories of corporate situations humanize the event in a way that increases understanding.

Consider the benefits of using stories:

To inform. We all want the facts, but if a leader wants the facts to matter, he needs to add a little seasoning. Stories can take raw data and give it life.

To involve. If the leader wants to get the audience on her side, she needs to involve them. For instance, if she wants to persuade people to support her idea, she can describe how her plan will benefit not only the customers but also a lot of employees, too.

To inspire. Employees become jaded; there is only so much information they can absorb, even when their jobs are at stake, so it falls to leaders to find ways to inspire their teams.

To tell stories with impact, it also helps leaders to follow these five basic rules:

Know your message. Good stories have more than a viewpoint; they have a message. As such they are tools of persuasion. Consider what you want your team to do and why you want them to do it. That is your message.

Find the right example. Look for what people around you are doing that relates to your point of view and incorporate it into your presentation. For instance, if you want to persuade people to adopt safety standards, tell the story of what happened when someone did not follow protocol. If you want to demonstrate the benefits of a new process, use a story to explain how an individual would benefit.

Weave your narrative. It is best to use real-life examples. Talk about what an employee did to ensure safety or how a team adopted a new process and achieved improved results. Tie the employee’s exemplary performance to a narrative by following strong story structure. Describe the situation. Talk about what happened. Close with the benefits pitch.

Support with facts. Using a narrative approach doesn’t mean you can’t use facts. Weave them into your narrative, or begin or end your story with them. At the same time, humanize them by relating their impact on individuals. That is, a 10% cut in our budget means we have to reduce travel expenses. Or a 15% increase in revenue means we can open a new facility.

Convey passion. You don’t need to go overboard, but you do need to demonstrate your conviction. Do this through your choice of words—ones that draw pictures. And do it through your delivery—raising your voice on a key point, pausing for emphasis, and following through with well-paced flow.

Excerpted, with permission of the publisher, from The Leader’s Pocket Guide: 101 Indispensable Tools, Tips, and Techniques for Any Situation by John Baldoni. Copyright 2013, John Baldoni. Published by AMACOM. For more information, visit www.amacombooks.org

About the Author(s)

John Baldoni

president of Baldoni Consulting LLC, is an internationally recognized executive coach, speaker, and author.