How To Find Your Story and Make it Into a Powerful Presentation

Truly great stories and presentations live on in the hearts and minds of audiences the world over, that’s a FACT. Everyone has an innate storytelling ability, that’s another FACT.
You just need to think about a time when you were with friends (or strangers!) in a bar or other social setting to know that you’re a natural born storyteller.

Why is that? Because when you’re in a friendly setting, you can be yourself, and you’ll use really direct language (no jargon) to make sure what you say is engaging.

These experiences show that we all have that innate sense of what makes a good story, but we tend to forget that a great presentation is simply a great story and we can also at times struggle to express our natural and true self.

How To Be a Brilliant Storyteller and Great Presenter

The first step to being a brilliant storyteller and great presenter is finding your unique story. But how do you do that? Let’s go back to that social setting and work through the following 5 steps and I’ll share how I used these steps to find my story.

First a little background:

My area of work is people development, I work with a team of performing and visual artists to deliver training programmes which combine learning and development strategies with skills and techniques from the Arts. So, working with the 5 steps:

5 Steps to Finding Your Unique Story

Begin by thinking about where your passions lie:
What topics are you most likely going to be talking about?
What are the things that excite you?
What are the subject matters that make you feel you have something to say?

I’m passionate about learning and development – my own and others. I’m also passionate about The Arts, and this is what excites me and what I’m most likely going to be talking about, and I happen to have a lot to say on these matters.

Look where you spend your time
What is it you do outside of your work, when your time is valuable, where do you choose to spend it?

I’m always learning, whether I’m listening to podcasts, reading, or taking a course and this together with visiting Galleries, Museums, going to the Cinema and Theatre is where I choose to spend my time. As learning and the Arts are my work, this is what I do on a daily basis and at weekends for both work and leisure.

Look where you spend your disposable income
What are the things you spend your money on? – your interests or hobbies.

This is also where I spend my money: Learning and the Arts: I recently did a course on Radio Theatre, which was so interesting and great fun. Other recent spends include: A preview screening of “Liar” (A new TV show) at the BFI followed by a Q&A with the writers, director and leading actor. I’ve just booked tickets to see “Glengarry Glen Ross” which is coming to the West-End, and “Girl From The North Country” – written and directed by Conor McPherson with music and lyrics by Bob Dylan.

Think about your struggles
In tough times, what did you do?
What kind of uncertainties did you feel?

I changed my career from Investment Banking to Career Coaching, returning to college as a mature student, that was a struggle because it was a juggling act initially, I worked to bring in much needed income while studying and gaining practical experience to launch my new career and business.

I felt great uncertainty about whether I could make that transition and if I could make a living from it, there have been many tough times getting things started and keeping them going. I’ve gotten through those by persistence, determination and a positive attitude – I keep on going because I believe our work has a positive impact on people development programmes, and working with learning and the Arts, makes it easy to remain positive.

Discover your Eureka moment
What was the moment you had your greatest realisation?

There was a further struggle that led me to discovering my ‘Eureka’ moment: Once qualified, while the one to one coaching work came easily to me, workshops and presentations didn’t. I was so incredibly nervous that I would be physically ill before talking in front of people. I was also very inhibited and not my natural self and to top all of that off I became very wooden!

To overcome this I undertook a Foundation year in Drama along with several shorter acting courses and a year long Directing Course, which led me to being Assistant Director on a production of Hamlet that went on to being performed at the RSC Open Space in Stratford Upon Avon (My claim to fame!)

This is when I had my ‘Eureka’ moment of how the techniques, structures and methods of theatre making are significant in the world of people development. The unique skills sets performing artists have had to develop in their craft brings learning alive. This excited me because I knew with my background in learning and development I could collaborate with artists to create meaningful learning programmes.

That’s how I found my story and it has been helpful in establishing my Company Brand, and in business and networking situations helping me to talk about what I do. It’s also been helpful in developing presentations and pitches for work.

But what about Presentations? how can you adapt your unique story to help you deliver a great presentation that people are going to want to listen to?

Making Your Story Into a Powerful Presentation

You need to think about the single purpose of your presentation, the one principle that is most central to what you want to accomplish.

Let me demonstrate with a presentation I’m currently working on. This is part of an application process for funding to deliver community projects.

First a little further background:

As well as working with the Arts in the workplace through people development programmes, I’m also passionate about bringing the joy and benefits of the Arts to the community. This includes retirement homes and to people who are living with Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Here’s how my Story/Presentation is shaping up:

“My love of the Arts came from my parents, music, song and dance and my mum was also an avid Columbo fan. (I’ll include that last part depending on my audience, more about that in another post, when I’ll talk about adapting your presentation to your audience to use references and/or humour – or not!).

Sadly towards the end of my mum’s life she developed dementia, which progressed quite rapidly and she had to go into a retirement home as she required round the clock care. As a family we felt we’d lost her, the dementia took away aspects of her personality and parts of her memory, she just wasn’t the same anymore and it was heart breaking.

When we went to visit she always knew us, but as soon as we left she wouldn’t remember we’d been there. We also couldn’t have a conversation with her, because she just couldn’t remember things and she’d become frustrated and agitated, it was too upsetting for her.

Every couple of weeks a singer would go into the home and have a sing-song with the residents, and when she did, my mum would sing along and she’d remember every single word of every single song, and she’d be talking about it for days afterwards. It lifted her mood immediately and she was so much happier and calmer.

This is why I want to work with a team of performing artists, to create a programme of events bringing music, song and dance to the lives of people who have Dementia and Alzheimer’s. I know the joys, benefits and well-being it will bring.”

My one purpose: To help people understand the immediate and lasting impact these programmes will have on people’s lives.

Wish me luck!

Next time I’ll talk about the second step in How To Be a Brilliant Storyteller and Great Presenter: How to Bring Your Story to Life for Powerful Presentations.

Explore our Open Courses: How To Deliver Great Presentations Incorporating Story

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The 3 P’s: Persistence Passion Purpose

The HubSpot Growth Show is great: the stories truly inspiring and serve to remind us that success doesn’t happen overnight, it takes persistence, determination, a lot of pulling ourselves back up, following a path when we don’t know if and when it’s going to happen for us, while remaining true to our passion, gut instinct and purpose.

images-1At the weekend I saw the actress Denise Gough give what has been credited as the West End performance of the year in People Places Things. I read afterwards that in 2012 when she received the critics award for most promising newcomer, she respectively said she’d been around for 10 years. Despite the award she then went on to have a period of 1 year before People Places Things where she had no work. She applied for and didn’t get a cleaning job and was about to give up on her dream when it finally happened for her.

Was it a lucky break? NO, it was sheer persistence, determination, a lot of pulling herself back up, following her path and staying true to her passion, gut instinct and purpose.


How to Deliver Bad News

imagesHow to Deliver Bad News

Sharing bad news is not easy, you need to be straightforward in saying the toughest stuff, then listen and work through people’s response and say what you’re going to do next.

The Steps:

Preparing Mentally

Prepare yourself mentally for sharing bad news, by understanding how you naturally respond to difficult conversations, you will be able to make small adjustments for immediate impact. To do this you need to recognise your emotional triggers, you can achieve this by:

Paying close attention over time to your reactions: journalling is a great tool for keeping track of your triggers, write down how you felt at the time, review and identify the emotions that provoked strong and intense reactions
Familiarise yourself with how your body reacts to your emotions, for example: your heart beating faster, your body tensing, a sick feeling in your stomach, you’ll then be able to manage those emotions before they manage you
Having this awareness of your emotional triggers will allow you to make changes in the moment: taking a deep breath, counting to 10 or calling time out are simple yet effective steps

Speaking Emphatically

Prepare what you are going to say from a place of empathy and humility. Don’t sugar coat the truth, instead say what you have to say and phrase it in a way that others know you respect their humanity and then say what you’re going to do next. To achieve this:

Have clarity on what you want to say, ensure you step into the conversation calmly by rehearsing the conversation ahead of time
Know the key points you want to communicate in case emotions highjack your brain, and remember your ‘time out’ plan
Prepare how you will respond constructively to whatever accusations, grievances, or upsets that may be brought up, you can do this by considering the range of possible responses and highly emotional reactions

Managing Emotions

The conversation you’re about to have will most likely evoke a strong reaction. Emotions are the most present, pressing and sometimes most painful force in our lives. Prepare to manage emotions by:

Setting the emotional tone: The more sensitive the issue, the more rapidly emotions can escalate
Learning how to see things from other’s perspective, not as “you in their shoes” but as them, by really listening to their response and allowing them to tell their story
Countering emotional reactions with humility, when you share something difficult it’s natural for people to have an emotional reaction

Following these 3 steps will help you to develop a straightforward approach in saying the toughest stuff, to be open and honest about bad situations, and to navigate difficult situations with dignity for everyone impacted.

Evolving Careers Players run Masterclasses in Courageous Conversations. Experiential learning which is fast, focussed and intense: Each masterclass last 90 minutes and gets you practising your new found know-how through role-playing every day work-based situations.

To find out more about our Courageous Conversations Masterclasses visit:


Interviews: The Opening Question: Tell me about Yourself

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The Opening – Setting the Scene – Steps to Crafting Your Inspiring Story

“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken” Oscar Wilde

Many interviews will start with the same prompt “Tell me about yourself”

Standard responses are along the lines of: “I studied (Major X) because I really wanted to make a difference in (Industry Y) and as you can see from my CV through my last job at (Company Z) I …

To move beyond this standard response to stand out from the crowd from the outset you need to craft “Your Inspiring Story” to show who you are as a person, not just a professional. To give meaning to what you will bring to the role and organisation.

The way your life has evolved, the things you’ve learned, your achievements, failures, dreams – these things are unique to you and make you more interesting than you perhaps realise. A good story is not a replication of your CV or LinkedIn profile, you need to go beyond that.

Steps to crafting your story:

Take an inventory of the chapters of your life – turning points that shaped who you are – what you learned, accomplished and experienced
Focus on memorable “aha” moments – vivid dimensions so people experience that moment with you
Uncover the themes in your story – what emerges as your passion – mentoring, research, relationship building, advancing knowledge …

How to Communicate with Power and Impact

imagesLeadership and change are driven by people who act and speak in a different way. Great influencers have always known the elemental role of communicating is motivating, persuading and gaining cooperation. But are great communicators born with those inherent skills or is it necessary to practice and develop techniques? The age-old nature versus nurture argument around trusting nature and acting by instinct as opposed to precision techniques and clear understanding to liberate hidden possibilities to learn the hard task of being true to the instinct of the moment.

Cicely Berry (renowned for her work as voice coach and director of the RSC) has based her work on the conviction that while all is present in nature, our natural instincts have been crippled from birth by many external influences and society at large. She goes on to say that while there is no one right way to speak, there are a million wrong ways that constipate feeling, constrict activity, blunt expression, level out idiosyncrasy, generalise experience, and coarsen intimacy.

So the work is about setting the voice free because life in the voice springs from emotion and speaking is part of a whole: an expression of inner life and awakening deep experiences which are seldom evoked in everyday speech. The voice is the means by which, in everyday life you communicate, and through of course how you present yourself – while your posture, movement, dress and involuntary gesture – gives an impression of your personality, it is your voice and the words you use that convey your precise thoughts and feelings.

Poetry in voice is an exciting way to explore moods in tone and voice to tell an emotional story and build confidence to speak more persuasively. Poetry presents a wide range of learning opportunities to include:

Offering examples of mastery of language and stocking the mind with images and ideas expressed in unforgettable words and phrases.
Training and developing emotional intelligence.
Reminding us that language is holistic and that how something is said is part of what is being said: the literal meaning of words is only part of their whole meaning, which is also expressed through tone of voice, inflection, rhythm.

To get started:

Find passages in poems which you find striking or memorable.
Imagine situations in which those passages might be put to use, whether to console, encourage, taunt, flatter, or otherwise make an impact on the listener.
Write a short story, letter, or speech in which at least three passages can be quoted effectively to move another character or the listener/recipient.

Poetry goes further than connecting with your voice because its also about connecting your head to your heart. Its an unique and dynamic way of getting back to the vocal pathway of instinctive expression through simple, practical actions that can empower you with the ability to communicate with power and impact.

Evolving Careers Players delivers 121 career coaching and group learning and development. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios to help individuals and groups develop their communication skills.

Get in touch to discuss your needs: