How You Can Use Storytelling to Inspire Success

Note: This is a guest post by Andrew Rondeau.

Remember the times you have been a member of an audience. It could be on a course, at a team meeting or on a night out. Which ones do you remember? The really great ones and, maybe the really bad ones.


It may be because you remember the presenters / speakers being dynamic, engaging, and inspirational. Alternatively, if they were bad the complete opposite. Didn’t those engaging presenters who made everything simple and entertaining, with seemingly little effort, jump into your mind first? What was it that made them excellent presenters? How come they are making the presentations so engaging and fun? What are they doing that’s different?

Tap Into Our Imagination

In my experience, the use of stories makes the difference between a really great speaker and a bad one. Stories bring things to life. They tap into our imagination to see and do things differently. They touch our emotions and help us understand. The best stories make us think: what would I have done in that situation? How could I do that? What would it be like here if we could achieve that? If they can do it, then why can’t I?

All you need are some stories and the courage to tell them.

Bring your team meetings and workshops to life through telling stories. Coach people with stories to inspire them to find an answer.

Most of the best stories in life contain the same simple ingredients: good characters, a difficult problem or challenge, attempts to beat that problem and a powerful conclusion.

Identify the message you want to communicate and look for stories that you can tell which visualise your message and bring it to life.

4 Techniques to Improve Your Storytelling

1. Theatrical.

Get people’s attention and then hold their attention by varying your voice and you use silence effectively. Sometimes you will be talking very softly and then “PAY ATTENTION because I’m about to say something VERY IMPORTANT”. If you talk in a monotone, it will be hard for people to pay attention.

And until you have their rapt attention, you’re not about to change their views on anything significant. So you need not their background attention, but part of their mind where they’re sitting on the edge of their seats and hanging on your every word. Until you have that kind of attention, you’re really wasting your breath.

2. Negative stories.

The kind of story that will get the attention of the audience is a negative story, a story that is unexpected and relevant to the listener. Studies have shown that we pay much more attention to things that are negative. So you can use this for attention by dwelling on the negative.

You can, for instance, tell a story about the audience’s problems if you know what their problems are and the things that they are currently worried about. Say, “Let me tell you about your problems. Those problems are worse than you think they are! Let me tell you how bad they really are! And if fact, they’re going to get worse. Let me tell how really bad they’re going to become!”

Now they are listening because you’re telling them a story about something that’s relevant to them. It’s unexpected, it’s relevant, and it’s negative. And so that’s a story that’s negative and it gets attention.

3. Positive stories.

To stimulate the audience’s desire for change, another crucial step is you tell a story that’s positive in tone, particularly one that’s a true story that’s about something that’s happened, where the change has already happened. And it’s the positive tone of the story that can stimulate desire for positive change.

4. Reinforce the future.

Once you’ve got people wanting something to change, then reinforce that with stories about the future, about what the change will bring and how it will be implemented and why it will work. These are fairly neutral stories; they are neither negative nor positive.

Understand the difference.

And so it is understanding the different role of stories, negative stories to get attention, positive stories to stimulate desire, and these neutral future stories that reinforce the reasons for undertaking this change.

Andrew Rondeau writes about ways to eliminate the loneliness and fear of being a manager.

Free Exclusive Happiness Tips

Subscribe to The Positivity Newsletter and get weekly tips on happiness, self-esteem and plenty more.

You’ll also get three free guides on how to stop being lazy, what to do when life sucks and 21 things I wish they’d taught me in school.

100% privacy and no spam. You can unsubscribe anytime.

About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Very interesting. It’s so true. Stories do capture attention. I witnessed it last night. I like the 4 steps. I never thought of doing it quiet like that, but it makes sense.

    I was taught, when first starting my business, to look for a problem that people have and help them find a solution for it. This is true whether you are speaking or writing. That’s why people think you are great and keep listening or coming back – cause you help them solve a problem that they have. And often they don’t know they have a problem until you present it in a story.

  • Jennifer,

    Thanks for commenting.

    Stories can really capture the audience, can’t they?

    I have a large book of them; I collect them, save them up and they come out every now and then when I want to get a particular point across.

    Thanks, again.

    Love your blog by the way – I’ve just subscribed.