Turning Your Story into a Powerful Presentation

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” Robert McKee

Truly great stories and presentations live on in the hearts and minds of audiences the world over, that is a Fact. Everyone has an innate storytelling ability, that is another Fact.

You just need to think about a time when you were with friends (or strangers!) in a bar or other social setting to know that you are a natural born storyteller.

Why is that? Because when you are in a friendly setting, you can be yourself, and you will use really direct language (no jargon) to make sure what you say is engaging.

These experiences show that we all have that innate sense of what makes a good story. But we tend to forget that a great presentation is simply a great story, and we can also at times struggle to express our natural and true self.

A Case Study

My Story: Turning My Story into a Powerful Presentation

The first step is finding your unique story. But how do you do that? Let us go back to that social setting and work through the following five steps, and I will share how I used these steps to find my story.

NB. Some of what I am about to share about my WorkLife you already know from previous chapters. I need to share it here again to give context to this strategy/framework. So:

First a little background

My area of work is people development. I work with a team of performing and visual artists to deliver training programmes, which combine learning and development strategies with skills and techniques from the Arts. So, working with the five steps:

5 Steps to Finding Your Unique Story Assignment

Step 1: Begin by Thinking about Where your Passions Lie

What topics are you most likely going to be talking about?

What are the things that excite you?

What are the subject matters that make you feel you have something to say?

E.g. I am passionate about learning and development – my own and other people’s. I am also passionate about the Arts, and this is what excites me and what I am most likely going to be talking about – and I happen to have a lot to say on these matters.

Step 2: Look Where you Spend your Time

What is it you do outside of your work, when your time is valuable, where do you choose to spend it?

E.g. I am always learning, whether I am listening to podcasts, reading, or taking a course; and this together with visiting galleries, museums, going to the cinema and theatre is where I choose to spend my time. As learning and the Arts are my work, this is what I do on a daily basis and at weekends for both work and leisure.

Step 3: Look Where you Spend your Disposable Income

What are the things you spend your money on? – your interests or hobbies.

E.g. This is also where I spend my money: learning and the Arts. I recently did a course on Radio Theatre, which was very interesting and great fun. Other recent spends include: a preview screening of Liar (a new TV show) at the BFI followed by a Q&A with the writers, director and leading actor. I have just booked tickets to see Glengarry Glen Ross, which is coming to the West End, and Girl From The North Country – written and directed by Conor McPherson with music and lyrics by Bob Dylan.

Step 4: Think about your Struggles

In tough times, what did you do?

What kind of uncertainties did you feel?

E.g. I changed my WorkLife from investment banking to career coaching, going to university as a mature student. That was a struggle because it was a juggling act initially. I worked to bring in much needed income while studying and gaining practical experience to launch my new WorkLife. I felt great uncertainty about whether I could make that transition and if I could make a living from it.  

There have been many tough times, getting things started and keeping them going. I have gotten through those by persistence, determination and a positive attitude – I keep on going because I believe my work has a positive impact in helping people develop, and working with learning and the Arts, makes it easy to remain positive.

Step 5: Discover your Eureka Moment

What was the moment you had your greatest realisation?

E.g. There was a further struggle that led me to discovering my ‘Eureka’ moment: once qualified, while individual WorkLife coaching came easily to me, group workshops and presentations did not. I was so incredibly nervous that I would be physically ill before talking in front of people. I was also very inhibited and not my natural self, and to top all of that off I became very wooden!

To overcome this I undertook a Foundation Year in Drama along with several shorter acting courses, and a year-long Directing course, which led me to being Assistant Director on a production of Hamlet that went on to being performed at the RSC Open Space in Stratford Upon Avon (Remember that’s my claim to fame!).

This is when I had my ‘Eureka’ moment of how the techniques, structures and methods of theatre making are significant in the world of people development. The unique skills sets performing artists have had to develop in their craft brings learning alive. This excited me because I knew with my background in learning and development I could collaborate with artists to create meaningful learning programmes.

That is how I found my story, and it has been helpful in establishing my company brand, and in business and networking situations helping me to talk about what I do. It has also been helpful in developing presentations and pitches for work.

But what about presentations? How can you adapt your unique story to help you deliver a great presentation that people are going to want to listen to?

Making your Story into a Powerful Presentation

You need to think about the single purpose of your presentation, the one principle that is most central to what you want to accomplish.

Let me demonstrate with a presentation I am currently working on. This is part of an application process for funding to deliver community projects.

First a little further background

As well as working with the Arts in the workplace through people-development programmes, I am also passionate about bringing the joy and benefits of the Arts to the community. This includes retirement homes and to people who are living with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Here’s how my Story/Presentation is shaping up:

My love of the Arts came from my parents, music, song and dance, film and theatre.

Sadly, towards the end of my mum’s life she developed dementia, which progressed quite rapidly. She had to go into a retirement home as she required round the clock care. As a family we felt we’d lost her, the dementia took away aspects of her personality and parts of her memory, she just wasn’t the same anymore and it was heart breaking.

When we went to visit, she always knew us, but as soon as we left she wouldn’t remember we’d been there. We also couldn’t have a conversation with her, because she just couldn’t remember things, and she’d become frustrated and agitated. It was too upsetting for her.

Every couple of weeks a singer would go into the home and have a sing-song with the residents, and when she did, my mum would sing along, and she’d remember every single word of every single song, and she’d talk about it for days afterwards. It lifted her mood immediately, and she was so much happier and calmer.

This is why I want to work with a team of performing artists, to create a programme of events bringing music, song and dance to the lives of people who live with dementia and Alzheimer’s. I know the joys, benefits and well-being it will bring.

My one purpose: To help people understand the immediate and lasting impact these programmes will have on people’s lives.

Wish me luck!

Develop Your WorkLife Story Chapters

”A story is based on what people think is important, so when we live a story, we are telling people around us what we think is important.” Donald Miller

Five Steps to Finding Your Unique Story Assignment:

Step 1: Begin by thinking about where your passions lie;

Step 2: Look where you spend your time;

Step 3: Look where you spend your disposable income;

Step 4: Think about your struggles;

Step 5: Discover your Eureka moment.

Making Your Story into a Powerful Presentation

You need to think about the single purpose of your presentation, the one principle that is most central to what you want to accomplish.

Moral of this Story

“The difference between real life and a story is that life has significance, while a story must have meaning.” Vera Nazarian

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback 

Everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.” Patrick Rothfuss.                      Listen to yourself and to your story. 

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning 

The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.” Brandon Sanderson

What questions do you want to give to people to think upon from your WorkLife presentation?

Words of Wisdom 

“Stories are a communal currency of humanity.” Tahir Shah, in Arabian Nights.

© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated

Feel free to publish an excerpt from this chapter, wherever you like. Your blog, your book, your newsletter. It’s all good. 

Just use my full name and kindly link back to my website: You’ll find my bio right here: Thank you. Be Well and Stay Safe.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

I’m Carmel O’ Reilly, Founder of I’m the author Your WorkLife Your Way, blogger and podcaster on the subject of WorkLife. My work focuses on helping people to live their best WorkLives, by managing their learning, development and growth, through effective self-feedback, insightful self-questions and the ability to shape and tell their unique story. My Mission is: “To spread the power of WorkLives lived with Passion, Purpose and Pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.”

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