Telling Compelling Stories

This is another excerpt from 2016’s FEI conference in Boston, MA.  This one comes from William Greenwald, Founder and Chief Neuroleaderologist at Windsor Leadership Group.


He began with a story.


This one was about air travel. Something happens. The plane makes an odd noise, then nose dives. “What am I’m going to do?” echoed in his head. The captain chimed in, “you may use your phone—you have ten seconds to send a message.” What would you say?


William said, “We are going down. I love you all … remember, I’m flying on business so I get double indemnity with life ins…”


The plane landed safely after all. A world of self-reflection confounded William and made him reflect on what matters—family, love.


What makes this story compelling?


The audience can relate. They are traveling. It is a strong opening that builds rapport with everyone in the room.


“Stories need to connect. Stories need to be relevant.”


Greenwald also employed the tactic of waiting until the middle of the story to introduce himself, “to get better reception right out of the gate.” This is a best practice of storytelling.


Presentation excellence requires four parts: Planning, Design, Delivery, and QA (quality assurance).


These four parts amount to an arc of successful storytelling. Each part has a mix of methods—both art and science—that can be planned carefully, rehearsed, and mastered.


Ask yourself, “Is it more important to be brilliant or relevant?” Remember, it’s not about you; it is about the listener and the impact you make on their views and actions. When it’s done, no one remembers your brilliance. Relevance drives impact. Think about adding seven words at the end of each point: “this is why it matters to you.”


Another tip: show up early. You’ll be more relaxed. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet your audience members beforehand.


You can always ask you audience if they see the relevance. Don’t be afraid to veer from slides or even close down Power Point.


Kill the podium. You don’t need it. Walk around. Make connections, but keep notes handy.


Here are some elements of successful presentations:

  1. Stories are important. Tell one.
  2. Humor can be a good tool to deepen connections.
  3. Improv makes things relevant in “a crazy way.” You have to be willing to be in an improv mode.
  4. Manage your fears. You can find ways to help lessen fear.
  5. Talent is all about practice. Practice and then practice more. Talent is simply hard work.


Emotions make stories work and cultivate memory. Science has proven this fact over and over. Stories aid recall. The more emotional, the more it lodges in the memory bank.


Stories inspire. Stories teach. Stories influence. Stories breathe life into real issues.


Tell yours now.