how to tell a story

How to tell a story that resonates in your next meeting

Many of us have been in meetings, wishing the speaker would hurry up and get on with it. We want this meeting to be over so we can get back to our desk and get on with our real work. The last thing we want is for the speaker to tell too many stories that waste our time. And when we are busy and someone says to us in a meeting, ‘let me share a little story with you…’. Oh, the audience is groaning on the inside and thinking, ‘please don’t share your story. I’m busy and I just need the facts so I can get out of here and get on with things.’

The social commentator Seth Godin says the job of a speaker is to be ‘remarkable’. In other words, when you’re speaking up in a meeting, or addressing a crowd you want to be ‘worthy of remark’. This means that something you say is so memorable and fascinating that your colleagues or audience members feel compelled to leave your meeting or presentation and repeat what you said to people who weren’t at the presentation. And it’s the same with stories, you want to tell any stories you’ve got in a way that makes them fascinating at the time and easy to repeat.

You may have a friend or colleague who has the gift of the gab, someone who can tell a great story and have people sitting on the edge of their chairs waiting to hear what happened next. It’s a terrific skill to have. And the good news is that anyone can tell a great story, you’ve just got to know what to do and then do it.

How to tell a story in a remarkable way


One way to tell a memorable story is to use what is known as the Magic Formula Story. It is a really simple technique that was invented by Dale Carnegie author of, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Here’s what you do:

 – Tell the story — this is where you deliver a short, interesting account (the incident) to your audience. Keep up the momentum so you don’t lose people.

 – You know how some storytellers tell the story, tell the story and tell the story and you sit there thinking, ‘get to the point’! Well, it’s really important that you deliver the point of your story. Don’t assume it’s obvious to your audience.

 – This is where you link your story, and the point of your story, to the audience. It’s where you explain the relevance of the story to them so they know why they just listened to your story

What else do you have to remember when you tell stories?

1. Love your story and tell it like you own it!

2. Talk with your audience not at them.

3. Keep the story short!

4. Make sure the story is relevant!

5. Use your gestures, emotive language and vocal emphasis when you tell your stories, so the story is exciting for your audience and to ensure you pull your audience into the story with you.

6. Aim to create a Referential Index Shift. This is a fancy name that means the storyteller’s reference becomes the reference of the audience member. In other words — your story becomes their story, they feel like they were in it with you.

7. Practise with your friends before delivering your message to a business audience. Your friends love you and will be more forgiving!

8. Listen to other storytellers as much as possible. You’ll learn heaps about what to do and what not to do.

If you’d like some help to tell better stories I have a storytelling workshop that goes for 3 hours and gives you tons of practice and confidence at telling stories that busy business people actually want to listen to! Email me:


Happy Presenting!  


© Michelle Bowden 2020.  Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation & persuasion in business. Michelle is a CSP (the highest designation for speakers in the world), co-creator of the PRSI (a world-first psychometric indicator that tests your persuasiveness at work), best-selling internationally published author (Wiley), and a regular commentator in print, radio and online media.

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