Are you using stories in your presentations? If not, start now!

How to Present Concisely to Senior Executives Janice Haywood Training

Are you using stories in your presentations? If not, start now!

Did you know that when we hear a story, seven areas of our brain are ignited?

But when we hear facts, only two areas of our brain are engaged?

This fact alone should convince you to incorporate stories into your presentations but there is much more to the story (Forgive the pun)

Brain scans show that stories stimulate and engage the human brain, helping a speaker connect with the audience and making it much more likely the audience will agree with the speaker’s point of view.

When I say ‘connect’, with audience, I mean it literally.

Uri Hasson, a neuro-scientist from Princetown University has conducted various  experiments related to how the brain reacts when we hear a story.. He connected stds to a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine (fMRI) to observe their brain activity whilst they listened to a story. He also wired up the person TELLING  the story. He found that both speakers and listeners brains showed JOINT responses. Their brain activity was actually synced.

It seems that by  telling stories you can get people to be on the same wave length as you in that your brain waves are the same. If that is the case, just imagine how powerful story telling can be as a tool of persuasion.

The thing is, as human beings,we’re hard wired to be attacted to stories . Stories were the main method of communication for thousands of years and many groups of stories still exist today, think of Aesop’s fables or the Bible.

When we hear stories, our emotions are touched. THAT is why we remember the message because our emotional or limbic brain is much older than our rational neo-cortex  brain. Once experiences are planted into our emotional brain, the memory of them is more or less there for good.

When we’re presented with “hard facts” (data) it only activates a particular area of the brain associated with the simplest form of language processing, decoding the incoming words into meaning. And that’s it. As I mentioned above, hearing a story and especially if it is accompanied by visual stimulation engages the brain much more than when we just hear facts.

This is because a story ignites the parts of the brain linked to the actual experience of the subject. We could say that stories, to some extent, create empathy with the listener.

Also, we know that when we experience good feelings, the brain releases the chemical oxytocin, so if you tell a story that creates empathy in your listeners and evokes positive feelings, this encourages cooperation; people are more likely to adopt your ideas.

Without a doubt , stories make people remember your message

Let’s talk more about how stories are a great persuasion tool and why you should use them in your presentations. And there’s no doubt that this crisis of Corona Virus is going to give us lots of material for stories.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle, one of history’s great communicators believed persuasion ocurred when there were three components in a talk – Ethos, logos & pathos.

Ethos is about credibility.  We listen to and believe someone if we respect them for their experience, titles and achievements.

Logos  is about persuading via logic, data, statistics. This has been the favourite component of the majority of business presentations for many years.

Pathos refers to the act of appealing to people’s emotions.

In his book ‘Talk like TED’, Carmin Gallo analysed the content of a TED talks that has been voted the most persuasive by listeners.

The talk is ‘We need to talk about an Injustice’ by Bryan Stevenson.

Stevenson is an American lawer who represents defendants from poor, disadvantaged backgrounds in court and claims they’re treated unfairly in comparison to richer defendants.

Carmine analysed all the words used in Stevenson’s talk and assigned them to each of 3 categories of ethos, pathos & logos. You can see the result in this photo:

Conclusion? You simply can’t persuade by logos (logic) alone.

As human beings, we like to think we are always being logical when we make descions, but in fact, we make decisions emotionally then justify them logically.

Let’s introduce another neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio. One of his research findings was that where people had suffered damage to the area of their brain that governs emotion, they became incapable of making the simplest decisions. Without emotion, these people were paralyzed.

Contrary to what has been believed in business for so many years, people most definately employ emotion in decision-making.

Using story telling techniques in your presentations is one of the most effective ways to persuade your audience to take action, adopt your ideas or spread your message.

And both you and your message will be remembered for much, much longer than those who continue to give boring presentations full of dry facts and statistics.

As Brené Brown once said;

“Story is data with a soul”

Give your data a soul! Stand out from the crowd by using stories and start creating business presentatations that people will enjoy and remember.


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My mission is to help employees in multinational companies learn the skills and techniques they need to give outstanding presentations in English and receive the visibility and recognition they deserve.

feel confident and engage with your audience Janice Haywood