23 Nov Want to tell awesome stories in your business presentations so people remember your message long-term?

It’s not cool to start your presentation with the facts you want to get across. Humans are hardwired for stories. They love heroes, journeys, surprises, layers and happy endings. We know that all great speakers take their audience on a journey. No matter whether the speech or presentation you are giving goes for 5 minutes or 5 hours, it’s important that your audience feels a variety of emotions with the end result that they feel compelled to take the action you require. There are 9 storytelling models you can use over the top of our solid foundations:

1. 13 steps to persuasive presentation design

This approach is a story structure that uses linguistic patterns (clever combinations of words in sentences designed to achieve  a specific result) to persuade your stakeholders. In this model there are 13 different linguistic patterns, each one with it’s own specific job, that can come together to persuade. The patterns variously grab your audience’s attention, build rapport, motivate your audience, manage objections, set the scene, frame content, discuss steps, call to action, facilitate Q&A, call to action and then close for results. At Michelle Bowden Enterprises we believe it’s essential that you understand the underlying science and theory of the various linguistic patterns that excellent speakers use so you present as professionally and persuasively as possible. Please note you can learn the full details of this approach in my book called: How to Present: the ultimate guide to presenting your ideas and influencing people using techniques that actually work (Wiley) available on my website

2. Monomyth

Also called the hero’s journey, is a story structure that is found in many folk tales, myths and religious writings worldwide. In a monomyth, the hero is called to set out on a difficult journey. They move from somewhere they know into a threatening unknown place. After overcoming a great trial, they return home with a reward or newfound wisdom – something which will help their community. Lots of modern stories still follow this structure, from the Lion King to Star Wars. It can be a bit too complicated for business presentations, but some TED speakers use this approach effectively.

3. The mountain

This is a way of mapping the tension and drama in a story. It’s similar to the monomyth because it helps us to plot when certain events occur in a story. It’s different because it doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending. The first part of the story is given to setting the scene, and is followed by just a series of small challenges and rising action before a big finale at the end.

4. Nested loops

Nested loops is a storytelling technique where you layer three or more narratives within each other.

You place your most important story – the core of your message – in the centre, and use the stories around it to elaborate or explain that central principle. The first story you begin is the last story you finish, the second story you start is second to finish etc.

Nested loops works a bit like a friend telling you about a wise person in their life, someone who taught them an important lesson. The first loops are your friend’s story, the second loops are the wise person’s story. At the centre is the important lesson.

5. Sparklines

Sparklines are a way of mapping presentation structures. Speakers such as Martic Luther King succeeded because they contrast our ordinary world with an ideal, improved world and show us what could be. They compare what is with what could be. By doing this, the presenter draws attention to the problems we have in our society, our personal lives, our businesses. The presenter creates and fuels a desire for change in the audience. It’s a highly emotional technique that is sure to motivate your audience to support you.

6. In medias res 

In this model you begin your narrative in the heat of the action so you grab your audiences’ attention from the start, before starting over at the beginning to explain how you got there. By dropping your audience right into the most exciting part of your story they’ll be gripped from the beginning and will stay engaged to find out what happens. Give your audience just enough information to keep them hooked, as you go back and set the scene of your story. This only works for shorter presentations though – if you string it out too long your audience will get frustrated and lose interest.

7. Converging ideas

Converging ideas is a speech structure that shows the audience how different strands of thinking, or two different types of people came together to form one product or idea. It can be used to show the birth of a movement. Or explain how a single idea was the culmination of several great minds working towards one goal. Converging ideas is similar to the nested loops structure, but rather than framing one story with complementary stories, it can show how several equally important stories came to a single strong conclusion. This technique could be used to tell the stories of some of the world’s greatest partnerships – for example, web developers Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

8. False start

A ‘false start’ story is when you begin to tell a seemingly predictable story, before unexpectedly disrupting it and beginning it over again. You lure your audience into a false sense of security, and then shock them by disrupting their expectations. This format is great for talking about a time that you failed in something and were forced to ‘go back to the start’ and reassess. It’s ideal for talking about the things that you learnt from that experience. Or the innovative way that you solved your problem. But best of all, it’s a quick attention hack which will disrupt your audience’s expectations and surprise them into paying closer attention to your message.

9. Petal Structure

Used to demonstrate how parts of a story or process are connected. It is a way of organising multiple speakers or stories around one central concept. It’s useful if you have several unconnected stories you want to tell or things you want to reveal – that all relate back to a single message. You tell your stories one by one before returning back to the centre. The petals can overlap as one story introduces the next but each should be a complete narrative in itself. In doing so, you can weave a rich tapestry of evidence around your central theory. Or strong emotional impressions around your idea.  By showing your audience how all these key stories are related to one another, you leave them feeling the true importance and weight of your message.


In summary, stories are powerful when they speak the language of your audience and have a structure. Your presentation, however dry the subject, can be brought alive if you find the story at the heart of your message.

These are the most common, classic storytelling approaches to liven up your talk and engage your audience. Of course there are many other storytelling techniques out there that you can use.

Make it a mission to deliver a presentation that captures the hearts and heads of your audience by using one of these classic storytelling techniques. Give one of these approaches a try for a presentation that works.

Happy Presenting!

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