A Presentation without Storytelling is a Lecture

girl reading story under blanket on tablet

Do you use the power of storytelling in your business presentations?

A presentation, a conversation or a lecture, which would you prefer to take part in?

In my experience a great number of presentations in business feel far more like lectures. The absence of stories and the essential elements of a great conversation make many a little tedious.

Storytelling in education is important too

My son left University almost a year ago. When I reflect on his education, it seems to me as though he has spent most of his young life being lectured to. For the most part it’s served him well in terms of his academic achievements.

Despite that, I can’t help but wonder how much more engaged students and the rest of the world would be with a little more storytelling.

We learned to connect with the world around us through storytelling

It goes as far back to when we lived in caves.

Cave paintings dating back as far as 15,000 BC have been found telling stories of rituals, hunting practices and gifts from god.

Thousands of years later, Aesop’s fables captured the imagination of thousands and are still used to teach us lessons today.

The Bible told stories, so did Shakespeare, Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr , Gandhi.

Even one of the most admired presenters of recent times, the late Steve Jobs was an advocate of storytelling

For thousands of years, all the great leaders and all of the great thinkers have been connecting with the world around them through storytelling.

Fast forward to today

Even this morning whilst watching breakfast television getting ready for work I noticed all of the best commercials telling stories.

That’s not new either of course, they’ve been doing it for years. In fact, some are so memorable I can still recall them decades later:

I still remember the original Heinz Baked Beans advert

This left me more interested in eating beans than travelling around the world as a small boy.

There was the Cadbury’s Milk Tray advert

The mysterious Milk Tray man risked his life to hand deliver a box of chocolates.

They didn’t talk about the ingredients, how many boxes they made or even why you should buy them. They simply told a 30 second story ending with a headline which said it all, ‘The lady loves Cadbury’s Milk Tray’.

How about the PG Tips commercial

This told the story of the power of tea when you need it the most. I soon realised why my parents drank so much tea.

Then there was the Shake n Vac TV Ad With Jenny Logan

Storytelling through a catchy tune showing a lady vacuuming her carpet with ‘Shake n Vac’ which would leave her house smelling ‘clean and fresh’. I still remember the smell..

More recently there was belVita

30 seconds of storytelling through a catchy tune showing a lady’s busy morning supported by another great headline, ‘ Energy for the whole morning’.

How about the simple yet powerful, Hedrin. No Drama commercial?

Do you like dogs?

As someone who grew up with a family dog and still loves dogs. even the advert I saw this morning told a powerful story which connected with me in a big way.

Next time you sit in front of the television don’t fast forward through the commercials. Don’t head out to make a cup of tea either.

Take a few moments to see how memorable they are through the power of storytelling.

Stories can help us to present our ideas with impact and make our message more memorable.

A good story, well told, can:

– Animate and bring a message to life.

– Teach us lessons.

– Share insights.

– Entertain us and engage us.

– Connect us emotionally as well as intellectually.

We all crave stories

We all have them to tell, so share yours the next time you present.

A presentation without storytelling really is a lecture and nobody likes to be lectured to.

Adopting the following principles each of these adverts have demonstrated so beautifully for decades will serve you extremely well.

Be clear and focused

Start with a very strong, simple, clear and compelling message:

‘Beans meanz Heinz’

‘The lady loves Cadbury’s Milk Tray’

‘It’s the tea you can really taste’

‘Do the Shake n Vac and put the freshness back’

‘ Energy for the whole morning’.

‘Hedrin. No Drama ’

‘Hundreds of dogs are still waiting for their special someone’

For a business presentation the principle is exactly the same

Find your key message that you will build your story upon.

Perhaps it’s:

‘Our software gives our customers access to their records which save you time and increases margins by 5%.’

‘Third-quarter numbers are down; and to stay in the game every department needs to support the sales initiative.’

‘How we will improve efficiency by 10% in the next 6 months’

‘Why we are letting our customers down and how to fix it quickly’

‘ The recruitment strategy we need to attract the very best people’

‘Let’s stop saying we need to communicate better and do it, here’s how.’

Be real and imaginative

The Heinz advert

We are reminded how adventurous young children are but also how fickle they can be.

Cadburys Chocolate

Remind us how history is full of stories of men doing whatever it takes to capture the heart of the woman he loves.

PG Tips

Understand that tea is one of the UK’s favourite drinks. They also know that simply showing a couple of people sitting drinking tea would be boring to watch.

Shake n Vac

Begin immediately by reminding us that bad smells can emanate from our carpets. They give a couple of examples.

Everyone knows the solution and the vast number of carpet cleaning products that are available. having a woman dance and sing a catchy tune as she vacuums hers is far more memorable.


Understand the power of mirroring human behaviour. The do it with energy, a catchy tune and a clear message that will make people who don’t have time for breakfast see things a little differently.


Head lice presents a significant challenge for parents and their children. The team at Hedrin remind us of the issue in a memorable and lighthearted way.

Even if you are not a dog lover I’m sure you’ll agree that the Dogs Trust advert is hard to dismiss without feeling something first.

If you’d to develop your storytelling skills:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

Image: Courtesy of istock.com

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