The Value of Storytelling

Research has shown that messages delivered through a story can be as much as 22 times more memorable than facts alone. That’s because wrapping facts and figures in a story makes the listener hear your message in a more meaningful way.

When you use storytelling in business presentations, you tap into the natural way humans communicate. We’re inclined to act on messages that appeal to our emotions: fear, anger, sadness, frustration, and joy. Delivering statistics on their own doesn’t elicit any emotional responses. Tying those statistics to something that matters to your listener does.

The fact that storytelling has been around since humans first walked the earth is proof that storytelling is important. Even before the invention of any alphabet, humans have been verbally telling stories or using images to tell them. It’s how we relate to each other and the world around us.

Why is Storytelling Important?

Research has shown stories persuade others and shape how they see you. Using storytelling in business is the single greatest tool you have to win over others.

A well-told story can move people to take action or even further your career. With one story, your audience can tell what you value, the customs you engage in, and how knowledgeable you are on a subject.

The value of storytelling is immeasurable when you consider how far it goes to show how passionate you are about a topic and how genuine you are.

All of this feeds into what your audience is after: something meaningful to them.

When you build a connection with your listeners through storytelling, they’re willing to accept the facts you present because they see how those facts play out in relatable scenarios. They see how and why it matters to them.

There’s an Anecdote in Your Pocket

Stories are all around us. But the best stories are the ones from within us.

Using a personal anecdote is a clever and effective way to use storytelling in your business presentations. An anecdote is a short story with a point about a real person or event that you can use to entertain or to launch into something deeper.

Like any great story, your anecdote has to be relevant to your topic. For example, you wouldn’t step on stage and start talking about your latest visit to the doctor unless there was something about the visit that related to your presentation.

You would, however, use an anecdote to introduce a thought, concept, or fact. This could mean talking about a time you struggled and persevered, or talking about a time you tried and failed. Audiences love to hear stories they can relate to, and who among us hasn’t tried and failed at one time or another?

The beautiful thing about anecdotes is that they pop up all the time, everywhere you go. Think back to the last time you ventured out with your kids or had a funny mishap at work.

Your entire day is made up of anecdotes and stories. You just have to figure out how you can use them in your presentations to bring your message to life.

The Stories That Matter

Christopher Booker, the author of “The 7 Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories,” says a story will always fall into one of seven storylines:

  • Overcoming the Monster
  • Rags to Riches
  • The Quest
  • Voyage and Return
  • Comedy
  • Tragedy
  • Rebirth

What’s important for you to remember is that the people in your audience are all going through one of these plot types as they sit and listen to you. So not only is storytelling important but so is having more than one story you can tell.

Ideally, you’ll have a story that fits each plot type so you can pick and choose which one to tell depending on the audience and the situation.

What do these stories look like? Here are some examples:

Overcoming the Monster – The hero must defeat the villain to restore balance. In movies, this is the plot for “Jurassic Park.” In real life, the “monster” can be illness, addiction, or anything else that you had to defeat.

Rags to Riches – The underdog comes out on top after their natural talents shine through. In movies, this is the plot for “Annie.” In real life, you may be the “underdog” who started with nothing and worked hard to become a well-respected expert in your field.

The Quest – The hero must defeat evil (sometimes more than one) despite the odds, but ultimately wins. In movies, this is the plot for “Apocalypse Now.” In real life, your experience as an entrepreneur is a quest story all in itself.

Voyage and Return – An average person is thrown into a strange world from which they must return. In movies, this is the plot for “Cast Away.” In real life, you can use the voyage and return the story to demonstrate how you can help your clients get something under control or return to normal after an upheaval.

Comedy – The main character must resolve some form of confusion that resulted in misadventure so they can move ahead. In movies, this is the plot for “Groundhog Day.” In real life, the “confusion” could simply be a series of bad decisions that led to a conundrum that required someone else’s intervention.

Tragedy – A character experiences something painful and harrowing. In movies, this plot is typically coupled with another (like rebirth). We see it in movies such as “Titanic.” In real life, everyone has a tragic story, whether it’s a story of divorce, an accident, or death.

Rebirth – The main character’s fate seems unavoidable until a miraculous series of events turns things around. In movies, this is the plot for the “Sound of Music.” In real life, rebirth can come after realizing how your behavior threatened something in your life and how you needed to be pushed to make a change.

You Tell Stories Everyday

You tell stories all day, every day. You tell them to family. You tell them to friends. You tell them to your children. And they tell them to you.

The conversations you have with other people all make great stories for you to gather and then use to improve the way you use storytelling in your business presentations. They provide a way to humanize data and make your message more relatable to your audience.

More importantly, your stories are a way to make your message more memorable than simply reciting facts and figures.

By placing them in the context of stories and anecdotes that entertain and engage your audience, you’re ensuring your listeners will retain the information you provide.


  1. Nice to know– my wife says my stories are ANNOYING. They’re just memorable 🙂

  2. I like the idea of using a anecdotal stories within business presentations. I’m going to try this my next time on stage.

  3. Lynda Holland says:

    The analogy of overcoming the monster is an easy way to remember how to tell a story about overcoming something. Thanks!

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