Should I tell a personal story in a presentation?

story tellingSome one asked me recently whether they should tell their personal story in a presentation. He was concerned that it might not be relevant, that people might not be interested and that he would be vulnerable by sharing such information.

My answer was ‘Yes…with provisos’.

Stories are powerful ways of sharing with others your experiences. They can express your values and beliefs far more effectively than lists and bullet points. They are more memorable and they are the human face of a presentation.

BUT…common mistakes people make with stories are:

  1. They tell the story for the sake of it and the audience can be left with the question, ‘So what?’
  2. They tell the story ‘from thread ‘t needle’ as my Yorkshire mother is fond of saying, with little regard for the edit button!
  3. They don’t know when to start and often don’t know when to finish
  4. They recite their history/resume because they are so familiar with it

So what do you need to do if you want to share your story? Here are five tips:

  1. Know why you want to share the story. Make sure that the part of your story you are sharing has a purpose behind it. And that purpose should be linked to your message.
  2. Craft your story. Be very clear about where you want to start the story (this doesn’t have to be in the beginning bizarrely) and know exactly where you will finish (not necessarily at the end)
  3. Edit. Edit. Edit again. Listeners do not need to know all the details. Ten years can be condensed to a single sentence. Not all the ‘characters in your story need to be introduced or explained.
  4. Know where you want to expand and add colour, feeling and sense to your story. Pick a moment or specific pivotal moments where you want to stop in the story and either paint a picture or allow the audience to reflect.
  5. Don’t tell your story. Live it. When you share it be in the moment and live your story again so that others can experience through your story…

What questions do you have about using stories in your presentations? Where do people go wrong? Which stories have worked for you?

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