The Art of Telling Stories

by Bill Mansell on October 7, 2009 | One Minute Motivators

We all tell stories. They help us to communicate and to relate to one another. They help us to share family history, bond with friends, and even add a humorous flair to your conversation. Most importantly, they can be used to illustrate an important point and flesh out your presentation.

Here’s one of my stories:

When I was in the cookware business, I often gave out recipes to people. A perennial favorite is my famous coleslaw dressing: three simple ingredients, delicious flavor. Here is the recipe:

4 Tablespoons Mayonnaise (fat free is OK)
2 Tablespoons Vinegar (any kind)
1 Tablespoon Sugar
Stir well, enjoy.

Once, I gave this recipe to a customer. Later, when I was back in her home she raved about the dressing. “And I did it just like you said,” she bubbled, “. . . except I didn’t have any mayonnaise, so I used Miracle Whip. But other than that, I did it exactly like the recipe said . . . except my husband has diabetes, so I used Equal.  But other than that, I followed it exactly . . . except I didn’t have any vinegar, so I used pickle juice. But other than that . . . . . . I did it exactly like you said!”

The truth is, she didn’t even use one of the ingredients in my recipe!

I use this story to illustrate a variety of different points while bringing a little humor to my presentation.

Here are some quick tips on telling effective stories:

  1. Practice telling the story. Edit it down so that it is precise and articulate. No one likes a story that rambles all over before getting to the point. Rehearsal does not ruin spontaneity. On the contrary, it prepares you to be quick and articulate when the moment is right.
  2. Use stories from your own life. Anyone can copy stories from others and occasionally, they can be effective. But, for true originality and freshness, the best stories are adapted from your own life and experience. Pay attention and write down experiences as they happen. Soon you will have more material than you can use.
  3. Emphasize the humorous aspect of the story. Practice telling it in a way that makes it fun and interesting.
  4. Make your stories appropriate to the circumstances. The most effective stories relate to the current conversation or topic. In a business situation, stick to stories that are relevant and don’t divert the client’s attention from what you are saying.
  5. Never tell a story that could be offensive or reflect negatively on someone else. Tell stories that have universal appeal. The goal is to help you bond with and relate to your audience, not to alienate them.

Success Tip: Practice telling stories to illustrate your points in business presentations and to boost your charisma in everyday conversation.

Bill Mansell is president of MindPerk, Inc., one of the web's largest resources for self improvement and business training. A dynamic speaker and success coach, Bill is the author of a weekly blog titled, One Minute Motivators. Bill helps companies and organizations inspire and motivate their team members to consistently achieve more. His contagious enthusiasm has helped people from all walks of life to reach and exceed their goals.

has 149 articles on MindPerk.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Vincent February 13, 2011

I like idea behind your post about story telling. Your thought process is unique and effective.


John Atkins October 7, 2009

very valuable!


Teresa Collins October 7, 2009



Bob Jimenez October 7, 2009

As a health teacher at the H.S. level, it has always been important to me to be genuine. Get “sort of” close to their level, and make sure you give them stuff to talk about so interaction and discussion is easy. I am a coach, and relate a lot of those experiences to them about the highs and lows, etc….they seem to get it pretty well. They need to be entertained some today as well……it is increasingly tougher to compete with the tech stuff!


maridah October 7, 2009

I would appreciate it if you can share with me the first story telling that you have inlcuded in your presentation. I have never done any story telling for any of my presentations. The tips for story telling given here are useful and I would like to try these out.


Mike Mason October 9, 2009

Maridah – I will give you an example:

I teach the legal profession on aspects of the law. I often start the session by telling them about a man who came on the course and who realized after an hour or so that he was on the wrong course – this was civil law and he came to study civil engineering. But the punch line was – he stayed and even came back the next day.

It’s a little story which loosens them up – makes them laugh and warms the atmosphere – it’s a good start.


Mike Mason October 7, 2009

Great article. I never give a presentation without inserting a story – I watch folks sit up and take note when I do


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