How to tell a great story to engage your audience

How to get people to listen to you? What do you say to engage them and make remember what you’ve said?

The most effective way to do so is by telling a great story.  Stories help the audience understand who we are. And most importantly they give our audience the reason to interact with us and join us on our journey.

How to tell a great story?

In a recent “International Culture and Career Seminar” at the European Study Center, I was speaking about the most effective way to describe and provide evidence of required skills by telling relevant personal stories during a job interview.

“Stories have the power to win customers, align colleagues, and motivate employees. They are the most compelling platform we have for managing imaginations. Those who master this art form can gain great influence and enduring legacy.”

— Nancy Duarte HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations

woman speaking to a group of people in a classroom

  1. Understand the difference between a story and an anecdote

You can tell how great you were at the beginning of your story, and you were still great at the end of it, but none of it is interesting. The difference that gets people to engage with your story is in change, in a  transformation of the main character, the hero of the story.

  1. There are three things that make a good story

We are drawn to stories mostly because they present a clear and condensed version of life. Within a story life seems to be clear – a story has a theme, a well-structured plot, and what is at stake for the hero. We are drawn to such stories, because of the clarity – there is a hero, the hero wants something and takes the actions, and the actions bring the result – either a happy or tragic ending.

  1. Tell the true story in an interesting way

It is self-explanatory that your story should be relevant and worth telling, but it also has to be told in an interesting way. People may not understand the situation you are in, but they understand the feelings.

People don’t want logical arguments; they want good stories.

Walter Fisher

We do not evaluate a story on the basis of arguments, but on the basis of how much we trust or believe in the story (Can I identify with the subject or the people?) and its coherence (does the story make sense?) wrote Walter Fisher in his book

To summarise: here is a simple structure of how to tell a great story

  • Who were you when you started and who were you when you ended the story.

  • What was at stake? In a story there should be something to win or lose, i.e. you are either moving toward or away from something.

  • What have you done? What actions did you take?

  • What’s the result? Is it a success or a failure?


You might also like:

How to get more clients with your email signature

How to use video testimonials to promote your business


Photo credit: Mimi Thian, Antenna, Nursultan Bakyt on


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