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Storytelling Course Scotland: three tips for telling your tale

I’m sure you’ve seen the footage of Martin Luther King, Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

It’s iconic. One of the most famous speeches of all time.

Can you remember the finer details of it? Figures? Numbers?

Or do you remember the dream and the vision?

That’s certainly my lasting memory of it.

In fact, we call it the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

Even though he only uses that near the end of the speech.

(The start is actually ‘Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.’ A nod to the venue, the Lincoln Memorial.)

Simon Sinek mentions how inspiring the thought of a dream is, compared to a plan.

A dream creates an image. It’s a story. People buy into stories.

Plans are boring. They focus on details, strategy, targets, KPIs and ‘synergy’.

Here’s the alternative quote Dr. King could have used:

“I have a plan.

“A plan that will see an increase in ethnic minatory representation in educational institutes.

“A plan to increase social and professional representation of…”

It’s important, yes. Of course. But it’s boring content.

Whereas the image of children and adults, of all backgrounds and cultures, learning, laughing, playing, and working together. It’s a lovely image.

We can see it. And that’s the power of storytelling.

Let me share three ways in which stories can improve the impact of your presentations.

1. Busting jargon

Presentation body language, stuart fenwick on a pink elephant course

Imagine you’re due to present on reducing inequalities in Scotland.

You could talk about reducing the social and economic factors such as crime, drugs and unemployment that affect SIMD Areas 1 and 2.

You could talk about improving the lives of those at the bottom of the ladder from deprived backgrounds.

Or you could tell the story of someone from one of these areas and the challenges they face every single day.

You could make it positive by explaining some of the programmes in place to support those affected.

By telling the story of the individual, we understand what it’s like living in these places.

We understand what improving their lives looks like.

We bring facts and figures to life.

One of the quickest ways to lose an audience is by throwing in complex terminology and numbers that lose all meaning.

Studies show that 7 in 10 people think in pictures.

Stories help paint that picture and connect your audience.

It can take complex material and break it down into easy-to-understand language that help capture the audience.

2. Creating an impactful introduction

storytelling course scotland, colin stone holds pen and paper

So often we’ll see presentations start with an introduction to the person presenting and why they’re there.

For example:

“Hi everyone. I’m Martin Luther King.

“I was born in Atlanta, Georgia. I’m a Christian minister, like my father before me.

“I really enjoy my work because…”


What’s in it for the audience? With that introduction above, nothing.

How about:

“My name is Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I’ve been a passionate Civil Rights activist for a number of years now.

“I started doing church sermons across the southern states of America. I love doing it because…”


Okay, yawn is maybe a little harsh with that one. It’s interesting to hear somebody’s backstory.

But we should be focusing on the purpose of the presentation for the audience.

I’ll go back to Simon Sinek.

He talks about three parts to the presentation being Why-How-What. And encourages us to start with Why.

The first introduction above focuses on a description of What he is.

It might be relevant at some point during the talk, but it’s alienating at the start.

The second introduction focuses on How he has been promoting his message over previous years.

Again, interesting but alienating at the start.

Instead, by starting with the story of Lincoln’s famous speech 100 years before, we’re introduced to the Why.

The purpose.

To get back to the American Dream.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men [and women] are created equal.”

Equality in society is an excellent purpose. Something we should always be striving towards.

By using that story at that start, King takes us back to a moment last century where promises were made that were yet to come true.

The audience can buy into this on a deeper, emotional level.

It’s hugely powerful.

3. Inspiring your audience

You may have heard Maya Angelou’s famous quote:

“People won’t remember what you said or did, they’ll remember how you made them feel.”

I completely agree.

Think back to your teachers at school. I imagine there will be three categories.

There will be a middle section of teachers who were forgettable. They were fine. They did okay.

There will be a bottom section of teachers who are remembered for all the wrong reasons.

They made you feel like you’d amount to nothing and that you were a failure.

But then there will be this top section of incredibly inspirational teachers.

Those who made you feel like you could accomplish anything.

Those who made you feel empowered and unstoppable. The teachers who empathised and listened, who inspired.

In fact, that goes for more than just teachers. Anyone you’ve ever worked with. Your friends, team mates, even your relatives.

The point is inspiration is memorable. It has a lasting impact.

Now think back to some presenters you’ve seen. Have you found corporate strategies memorable? What about increasing client engagement? Alignment of key team targets?

Me neither.

I remember vividly a TED talk by Efosa Ojomo regarding police corruption in Nigeria.

There was a powerful story about how this had affected his sister.

A real life story within a bigger story often lost to vague news headlines.

I’ll always remember it. I’ll always be inspired by it.

Storytelling Course Scotland: the next step

storytelling course scotland, stuart fenwick sits at a table in lochinch

Thinking back to the three categories of teachers I mentioned earlier, my question to you is simple.

Which type of presenter would you like to be: top, middle, or bottom?

If it’s the top you’re aiming for, then Pink Elephant can help with this.

We’re committed to helping people like you unlock the stories that underpin their messages.

To find their why and throw it out to the world.

If that’s you, then get in touch.


Stuart Fenwick is a Senior Trainer at Pink Elephant.

Read more about him here.


Photos in Storytelling Course Scotland blog by Pink Elephant Communications.
Storytelling Course Scotland blog written by Stuart Fenwick.
Storytelling Course Scotland blog edited by Colin Stone.

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