How to give a presentation: (5) telling a story

One of the services that FJWilson Talent Services offers is presentation training. Here our presentation coach, Anthony Haynes, gives the fifth in a series of concise, practical, tips.

anthony_haynes bnu cropped

In my previous post, I recommended beginning a presentation by getting straight into telling a story.


My favourite technique is one I learnt from a lecturer in creative writing. She in turn had taken the idea from a book – I believe it was The Weekend Novelist.

It goes like this. Start with a problem. Then explain the attempted solution. Then explain the problem this in turn throws up. Then explain the attempted solution to that problem. Then explain the next problem… and so on.

For example, let’s invent a character called Jane. Jane has a problem: she’s short of money. What does she (or anyone else) do to try to solve the problem? She decides to take a second job, working at weekends. What problem then arises? It puts strain on the relationship with her partner. What does she (or anyone else) do to try to solve the problem? …and so on.

This structure can readily be applied to professional, commercial, and occupational contexts. For example, a membership organisation has a problem: its national profile is low. What does it do to try to solve this problem? It decides to develop a social media campaign. What problem then arises? The organisation lacks expertise in the use of social media for the purpose of branding. What does it do to try to solve the problem? …and so on.

I’ve used this structure, and helped others to use it, countless times. Its advantages are that, typically:

  • it is easy to construct the story;
  • it is easy to communicate the story to other people (listeners ‘get it’);
  • the stories are easy to remember (so the speaker doesn’t need notes and listeners may relate it to other people, leading to word-of-mouth publicity).

Next in the series: an alternative way to tell a story.

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