I often start my coaching sessions, my public seminars, or my corporate workshops with a story about how Ray Kroc founded McDonald’s or a story about my personal experiences building a real estate company and then selling it in 2000.

My students look at me curiously wondering what these stories have to do with public speaking and presentation skills. But they always pay close attention and they want to hear how the stories end and what the point of the stories is. That’s because the ability to tell stories and relate them to the audience is what makes any speaker great. In fact, it’s the essence of great speaking. So how do you use stories to become a more dynamic speaker?

Start by creating your own signature story that sounds real because the events actually did happen to you. Make the story personal, develop a theme or a moral from the story, and finally explain to the audience how the story pertains to them and can benefit them.

Surprisingly, using your life’s disappointments and failures can create the most riveting stories. Remember, many hugely successful people consistently say that the ability to fail was very important to their ultimate success. The founder of the Subway chain’s first two stores went out of business but he persisted until he found the right formula.

The Remax chain of real estate agencies started by Dave Liniger kept running out of money. Liniger thought of the idea of retaining 5% of the real estate commission even while marketing themselves as the first “100% commission” firm. This one change enabled Liniger to build the largest real estate brokerage in the world and become a billionaire.

These “failure” stories can be especially compelling as they often incorporate some of life’s lessons involving resiliency, humility, humor, or persistence. Indeed, the greatest lessons in life are learned from our failures, our ability to handle disappointment and the ability to bounce back from adversity.

Learn to take your story to the next level. Great stories can be used to teach, entertain, and convey to the audience that you are one of them. Learn to paint a picture with your story. Describe objects, sights and sounds vivid so audience members can visualize or hear what you are trying to convey. Use vivid descriptions of the characters in the story, what they are thinking, their facial expressions, or their motivation.

Where do you get the stories? From life experiences, failures and successes, books, movies, work, friends, and relatives. The great motivational speakers, political speakers, and business communicators have a residue of stories that illustrate any major point they are trying to get across. Learn to be a great storyteller and you will become a great speaker.


Andy Newman, President
Business Speaking Academy, Inc.
Boca Raton, FL