How bad stories can ruin your presentation (and what to do instead)


Have you ever been to a presentation where the presenter told a story with no connection at all to the topic being presented? What about a personal story that went on and on and on and left no room for the information you were expecting to learn? I believe that stories are critical for you to connect with your audience and for audience members to learn and remember your important information.

To make stories work for you, you must choose the right story at the right time and then craft your story to engage your audience. Check out my blogpost  “How to add stories to your presentation and what not to do” for 5 tips for crafting your stories. In that post, I mentioned three things to avoid when including stories in your presentation (alluding to a story, introducing a story, and including too much dialogue).

Three additional mistakes with stories?

Here are three more mistakes that people make when adding stories to their presentations:

  1. Irrelevant story – One of the worst things you can do is fall in love with a story and use it in every presentation you do, no matter the topic you are speaking on. If the story does not relate to the content of your presentation, your audience will remember your story and forget the important information you are there to share. Figure out the purpose of your presentation, and review all the possible stories you have for ones that tie directly to that purpose or to the information you are presenting.
  2. Excessively long story – Another mistake is to have your story go on and on and on. Figure out what a good story is for your presentation, then craft it to fit into the time you have. If you are doing a 5-minute presentation, your opening story should be no more than one minute. If you have more time, you can include more details from the story or additional stories. Make sure that whatever you say is relevant to the purpose or helps with the information you are sharing. If there are things that are not relevant, be ruthless in removing excessive bits.
  3. Too few stories – If you have a very short time for your presentation, you will likely only be able to include a single story. The mistake here is to include only a single story when you have time for more. Different types of stories have different purposes. I recommend my clients start with a challenging story. The purpose of a challenging story is to get the audience’s attention. In a longer presentation, I recommend they follow that with a springboard story. The purpose of a springboard story is to stimulate your audience’s desire to know more. If you have sufficient time, it is even better to include stories relating to your three key points.

Remember to avoid these mistakes when using stories in a presentation.

Perhaps you might think you don’t have any stories or not know where to look. For tips on how to find interesting experiences that can turn into stories you can use during a presentation, check out my blog post “How to keep track of interesting experiences that you might use as stories in your presentations”.

One of the ways I help my clients is in choosing the right story for a particular purpose and crafting stories to engage their audience.

Need help with stories?

If you’ve been struggling to use stories effectively in your presentations, sometimes a bit of outside perspective from someone who can provide feedback on your stories can make a big difference.

If you’d like to evaluate yourself on how well you use stories, and nine other factors that make an informative presentation memorable and engaging, sign up for my free 45-minute AMP Up Session using this link: