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5 Storytelling Tips To Make You A Presentation Rockstar

By Blog

Have you ever had to give a speech or a presentation, and you just weren’t sure how to set up your address or structure it so that you could connect with your audience and have them get the point? I’m going to share with you five storytelling techniques that you can use to structure your speech and make you look like a presentation Rockstar. 

You’ve been called on to deliver a speech, a report, or a presentation. And you don’t want it to be the same old boring speech, presentation, or report anymore. You’ve heard that storytelling is an excellent way to bump up the engagement and connection factor. But you’re just not sure how to bring stories into work or data built or data-driven presentations.

 I want to share five techniques that you can use to structure any good story or presentation. 


The first technique is called the hero’s journey. In the hero’s journey, this is a journey or a technique you’re all familiar with. A lot of movies use this journey. The hero leaves their home, and they set out on this crazy journey. They go from something comfortable, something they know, something they’re used to, into this threatening unknown. After this, they fight a big battle; they overcome a great trial. And then they return home with a reward or with some new wisdom. This wisdom is then used to help their community. Many stories follow this; this technique helps to take your audience on a journey with that hero, goes with them through the fights, goes with them back home, where they’re then able to utilize those stories to share with those at home. All the new wisdom that they’ve discovered. Joseph Campbell wrote a great book called the hero’s journey. And if you’re interested in finding out about that technique, I recommend reading that book. 


The second storytelling technique with which you might want to be familiar with if you’re not already familiar. It’s called the mountain. Now, in the first part of the mountain story, you’re just telling everybody what’s going on, you’re creating context, you’re setting the scene. But the mountain is this journey, where there are ups and downs, there are breaks, there are challenges, resolution challenges, you got one challenge, then it’s solved. You’ve got a second challenge to solve the third challenge, and then it’s off. It’s like one of those personal stories where you almost feel like you are constantly having trouble. It never ends. And the thing about a mountain story, unlike the hero’s journey, the hero’s journey usually has a happy ending; the mountain story does not have to have a happy ending. It could end with someone dying, and it could end with the story not resolving as you would expect it to. 


The third storytelling technique that you want to be familiar with is one that’s called nested loops. Now in nested loops, you layer several narratives inside of each other. A friend tells you their story. And then that story includes someone wise, maybe telling them a story that changed their lives. And it changed the arc of their story. For example, I remember writing a story about how I was practicing for a group in college. As I was doing that, a friend or someone was a chaplain of my College who came to watch, and he said some words to me. He told me a story. And that story changed how I viewed myself as a leader. If I’m suggesting that story to somebody, I’m telling them the story that my guru said to me inside of the story. So they hear my story plus the other story of wisdom. And then they’re learning how that story of wisdom affected me and changed my life arc. That’s what a nested loop does. 


The fourth storytelling technique is the media rez, or in the middle of things. Using this technique, you start in the heat of the action; you start in the middle of the story, as it says in the name. You might be in the middle of the climax, in the middle of the conflict, in the middle of the battle, right when this story begins, but then you circle back to the beginning. And you tell how this started, and you give a little bit of the build-up before returning through that middle through that battle, on to the end of the store. Many movies work this way. Look for any movie that has or features flashbacks. 


The fifth storytelling technique is what is known as sparklines. Nancy Duarte uses this technique, and a sparkline is where you contrast what is happening currently with the hope of an ideal future or fantasy. An example of this, you will probably look for many political speeches or many sermons. They share with you what is happening now, the crazy that’s happening now. And then they tell you what that future is that you can look towards. These are very inspirational speeches, and they want your audience to move to action. They share with you a different future, a different possibility, one that doesn’t exist already, but an idealistic one, one that is perfect. One that is aspirational gives people something to hope for. Martin Luther King delivered what was called the I Have a Dream speech. And this was a speech that used sparklines talking about all of the different things that existed now or then. And then comparing that with his dream of what could be speeches and presentations are that much better and much more interesting.

 When there’s a story involved, stories are much easier to structure when you understand how they’re put together, and you have a framework.

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How To Keep Your Audience Connected To Your Message

By Blog, Communication

He had a lot of energy and he was interesting.  There were even a few moments during the 7 minute speech where he had the audience laughing.  I could hear them on the video.  Honestly, it was a good speech.

But, there was one thing I noticed.  He kept pacing back and forth the entire time.  This stood out to me because I noticed how much the camera operator had to move the camera during the video.  My screen just kept moving left to right, right to left, left to right, right to…the entire time.

If the camera person kept having to do this with his camera, what was it like for the audience?  Did they get dizzy?

The man on the stage giving the speech was me.  I was watching myself give a talk to some high-school students.  A friend of mine sat in the audience with my phone, recording the talk for me.

I was shocked at the amount of movement, not because I wasn’t supposed to move.  It was just quick, abrupt and a LOT.  I’d rush to one side of the stage, then quickly do a military pivot and move back to the other side.  It went on like this for the entire speech.  Yes, I was energetic.  But, I imagine that vocal energy added to my pacing may have made it a bit overwhelming.  I was filling up just watching the replay.

Pyschologist, Dr. Sunna Jung, shares that pacing is, “a behavioral signal to tell yourself that you’re too overwhelmed.”  She also notes it can be a “form of distraction in the moment to calm yourself down.”  As a speaker, being calm is important.  Coming across as confident is critical for the tone of your message.  However, the distraction mechanism of pacing also causes the audience to be distracted.  Remember, they are trying to connect with you.  So, constant pacing causes them to have to chase you.

Should you stand still like a robot in the middle of the stage or the room?  No, of course not.  Instead, move with purpose.

Keeping Them Connected

Here’s an example:

Let’s say that you are in the center of the stage and you say, “I’ve got three quick points, I want to share with you.”

Move to the right side of the stage (your right, their left).  Then begin, “Point number 1…”

You are now subtly anchoring that point to that side of the stage.  You might even add on by coming back to that side in a later reference to the point.

As you complete point #1, pause and let the idea sink in.  Transition to the center of the speaking area as if you are preparing to deliver the next power-packed piece of content.  Once you arrive, plant yourself and say, “The second point I’d like to share is…”

Again, as you complete point #2, pause, then transition to the left of the stage.

“The third and final point…”

You’ve done several things here.

First, you’ve physically anchored them to three areas and associated three points.

Second, you’ve honored their normal style of reading and information reception, left to right.  (Assuming this is a western audience)

Third, you given them space to separate ideas and process them.


Speaking from a stage or from the front of a room can be unnerving.  But your job isn’t to transfer that nervousness to the audience or show them how hard it is to be up front.  Your job is to clearly and confidently connect with them, showing them you see, feel and hear their problem.  Then you can show them your solution to the problem.

About The Author

Robert Kennedy III is a professional speaker and author. He speaks and writes mainly about leadership and communication. Connect with him on TwitterInstagramLinkedInFacebook or on his speaking website,

5 Reasons Organizations Must Get Presentation Training

By Blog, Communication

It was an important roll-out.  The team had spent weeks putting together the timelines, the assets, and answering all the questions they could think of.  Now, the only thing left was presenting it to senior management.  The team chose Sarah, the person who knew the most about the proposed system, to present the idea.

There was one problem, however.  Sarah was scared out of her mind.  And when she went into the room to present, it showed.  She fumbled with her clicker and her papers.  Her sentences rambled.  The red showed clearly on her face.
When she left the room, she broke down in tears because she had blown it.

Maybe every presentation isn’t high stakes or this dramatically terrible.  But, this is a true scenario more often than most companies would admit.  Whether it’s a high stakes sales presentation, new business pitch, or laying out a new strategy, the success of the business is dependent upon influence.  This means confident, clear and credible presentations.

So, why do many companies fail at this?  In some cases, training exists.  But, rather than interactive, performance-based training designed for muscle memory, the participants sit in a room answering questions and taking notes.  While this may fill the quota, it doesn’t improve the skill set or give better results.   Employees need to know how to present more than just information.  They also need to know how to access their innate abilities to tell stories, influence and connect effectively.

There are many reasons why training in public speaking and presentation skills is important for any organization. But, I will share 5 top considerations:

1. It makes them better at selling.
Your company sells a product or a service.  While you hire salespeople hired to win new business, internally, teams need to influence each other and/or management to create more efficiency. Ironically, many salespeople lack training on HOW to present.  Rather, they are told WHAT to present. Customers connect to the WHO and the WHY first before they will connect to the product.  In an article on redesigning the auto industry, Jamie LaReau, predicts we will need product presenters rather than salespeople.

While the outcome may be sales and revenue related, in order to get there, presenters must have the ability and skill to connect.

2. Finding a hidden company/department spokesperson.
The person who presents is quite often the person who knows the most or the person who is the least scared. Not very good criteria.  Is everyone equally skilled at presenting?  Is that even possible?  Maybe not.  But, with the right training, you will find a diamond or two in the rough.

I presented for a company recently and one participant mentioned she rarely presented because she was always told how soft-spoken she was.  She believed this was a hindrance to her presentation.  But, when we began working on what she could do to connect with her audience using her already built in superpower, she came to life.  Her thoughts were crystal, and she became animated about her content.  Soon after the workshop, I received an email from her team proclaiming her the official department presenter.  Her ‘soft-spokenness’ was an asset used to help her audience lean in.  And she actually learned to project better because she was now more confident in her skills.

3. Improve employee confidence.
More confident employees are more decisive employees.  Decisive employees are willing to take more risks and in an age where innovation is a must, risk-taking is a leadership mandate.  But when employees are not sure whether their voices can be heard, the confidence factor decreases.  So, when an organization says, “Hey there, here is a way you can increase the likelihood of your voice being heard and also upgrade your influence,”, employees tend to listen.

Public speaking and presentations give immediate feedback from a captive audience.  While much of the immediate feedback is non-verbal, it is still impactful enough to make a difference.  Imagine an employee who feels like she can communicate effectively with c-suite and entry-level alike.  This is a confident employee who knows that her words and how she presents them can make a difference.

4. Establish authority, improve reputation and credibility.
A well-prepared presenter can establish rapport, authority, and expertise with an audience, large or small.  But, a company with well-prepared presenters, plural, establishes itself as a company who identifies great talent and also equips its people to be passionate about its products.

As a child, I remember vacuum cleaner salesmen coming through my house quite a bit.  The products were always good, and they seemed to do amazing things. However, we never purchased…until the 3rd time a specific company came to us.  We’d seen the presentation twice before but we took special note of how the company armed its presenters.  My dad was a pastor and so he had a special affinity for well-presented messages.  This company was consistent with the excellence of presentation and we paid nearly $1000 in the 80’s for a vacuum cleaner.

Did my parents buy only because the presenters spoke well?  Maybe not.  But, they gave us a glimpse of the product quality by showing us the care they took in their presentations.

5. Increase retention.
Employees need…no, they EXPECT their organizations to invest in their development.  If their development needs are not being met, expect them to look elsewhere.  Recently, I trained a department of an organization. Of the 10-12 people in the room, 4 confided they were secretly looking elsewhere because the company didn’t provide them any training.  Until my workshop, some hadn’t received any training in the 2 years they had been employed.  One mentioned how much he enjoyed the presentation and communication training.  However, he wanted to make sure the managerial staff and the executives were also registered to take it.

His words were, “I know I’m getting better because of this.  It says something if your workers are getting better but you’re not doing it as well.”


People want to get better and organizations benefit when they help their people get better.  But, as Jim Collins mentions, organizations should go past good to great.  A great organization which employs the right training will produce great employees and great results.

Learn more about 3C Presentation Training for your organization.  Help your team present their ideas with confidence, clarity, and credibility.