How to keep track of interesting experiences that you might use as stories in your presentations

If you want your informative presentations to be memorable and engaging, one of the most important things to do is to include personal stories of you or your clients in your presentation.  Sometimes it’s hard to remember interesting experiences that you might use in your presentations.

There are three reasons why you want to keep track of interesting experiences that might become stories for your presentations:

Emotions then Facts:  People make decisions based on their emotions first and then look for facts to reinforce the decision they’ve already made. Stories are critical to tap into a person’s emotions.

Stories increase focus and trust: When listening to a story, there is change in the brain chemistry of the listener.  There is an increase in cortisol (the focus and attention hormone) and in oxytocin (the trust and connection hormone).

Stories use the whole brain:  Because stories engage the emotional parts of the brain as well as the visual and auditory parts that presenters normally engage, when you use stories the whole brain will be engaged and your key information that is tied to those stories will be remembered.

It’s great to know that stories are important but how do you find them.

I’ve had clients tell me that they don’t have any stories.  This is often because they think a story must be a really big thing (e.g., climbing Everest or meeting the Queen).  In fact, any interesting experience can become a great story to use in a presentation.  The problem can be how to remember what interesting experiences you’ve had and record them in a way that will help you recall the story.

The story I use to start my presentations on giving informative and memorable presentations goes like this:

It is about 30 years ago.  I am in a raised classroom at SFU in downtown Vancouver giving my first ever public presentation. I’m shaking with fear.  I am there to talk about a policy I drafted to a group of industry participants.  I share every detail about that policy.  Many audience members nod off or talk to each other about lunch.  No one is paying any attention to me.  I feel devastated. I don’t want you to make the mistakes I did in your next presentation.

The setting for the story is specific.  You know what I did.  You know how I felt. I’ve explained why I told the story.

So how do you remember interesting experiences that might become stories for a presentation. 

  1. Write down any interesting experience that happens. Include the following details:
    • When did it happen (month and year)?
    • Where did it happen?
    • Who was there?
    • What happened?
    • How did the person in the story feel? (could be you or could be your client)
  2. What did person learn from the experience? (write that down too)
  3. What theme or topic does this story relate to (write that down as well)
  4. Have a place to record all these interesting experiences (a chart, a story journal, etc.)
  5. Have a way to record it on the go (have something you keep with you always to record the basics of the interesting experience wherever you are)
  6. Decide how you will record interesting experiences. Set up your system to record interesting experiences as they occur

When your next presentation is coming up, look through your record of interesting experiences and find ones that can be made into stories that are relevant to the purpose of your presentation and to the information you are sharing.

Don’t think you have any stories.  Not sure what stories fit into your presentations?

Helping clients come up with stories and figure out what story to use where in a presentation is something I help my clients with.

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