Storytelling Secrets for Public Speakers & Leaders

What's Your Story

Storytelling can be a powerful & compelling tool for today’s leaders and public speakers. Stories can help you entertain, influence and inspire an audience much more effectively than facts or figures. A well delivered story can leave a positive lifelong impression, get you the sale or venture capital you’ve been seeking or even change the world. Whether you are a seasoned leader, a speaker or fledgling startup — stories can breathe life into your communications. Here we’ll explore some of the fundamental characteristics of what makes storytelling so powerful for speakers, leaders and anyone under the sun.

Emotions Move Your Audience

Emotions are always an essential ingredient to successful story telling. We connect with the humanness of another’s experience, we relate to it. Ask yourself, if what you deliver in your speech or presentation will rise the emotions you’d like to see the audience to experience. This emotional experience (or experiences) should build audience anticipation and have them hanging on your every word.

Build Anticipation

Our stories should build anticipation in the audience from the very beginning. Like our favorite TV shows always go for commercial break just before a cliffhanger. So too, our stories should edge our audience toward an intended call to action or key point. They should lead the audience along our intended storyline while keeping them on the edge of their seat. Our stories don’t have to be exactly chronological, they can instead be told in any order to help build anticipation of our fundamental call to action or fundamental message.

Call to Action

Our call to action is our fundamental takeaway we’d like an audience to remember delivered through the lens of our story. It’s what do we want them to do, say or think as a result of our speech or presentation Our call to action is our takeaway, or message they should remember. Our call to action should be evident and bring our audience to the desired conclusion through our authentic, relatable, impactful story.


Stories should be about people, their experience or something the audience can relate to. You should be able to answer the questions:

  • Can the audience see, feel and experience the story from their own perspective?
  • Do you understand your audience demographic?
  • What are the needs, wants and desires of your audience

If you can answer these questions you’ll be able to construct stories that we relatable and effective no matter the aim of your speech or presentation. In the end we want the audience to feel we are speaking directly to them as if an intimate one on one conversation. If we are relatable and have a well-developed story, this will be evident in audience reaction. If you’re using a story correctly you’ll see smiling faces, eye contact and engaged facial expressions. If not, you’ll experience downward gazes, smartphone activity and lethargic sleepy body language.


We can only create a proper connection with the audience if we are truly authentic. This cannot be faked. Authenticity means we show ourselves as who we are — not our idealized selves. Being the unique authentic person, you are as a speaker/leader will let your story shine. Bearing your soul will breed trust and respect all around you. Others will see you as perfectly imperfect and respect you for having the bravery to express yourself with honesty. This will build rapport and relationship with any audience and mean a positive reception of your message. You are perfectly imperfect, realistically show it and your stories will have compelling resonance with your audience.


Vulnerability builds rapport and relatability. Introducing our own vulnerability does not make us weak, in fact it shows quite the opposite. Let the audience know about your challenges, mistakes and even failures. This is very powerful because it is a raw and relatable human experience. Most people struggle with self-confidence, imposter syndrome and even deeply challenging failures. Those that claim they have not known struggle, pain or failure are not interesting to most. Truth be told, being vulnerable shows, you are human, fallible, and most importantly — relatable.

Bring it to Life

Use as much of the 5 senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch) as possible — they need to experience it as if they LIVED it. Effective storytelling makes the audience experience what you describe in your story. This means we need to deliver with effective body language powerful, dynamic vocal delivery and palpable charisma. Our word choice matters significantly as it will often bring vitality to our story and its intended outcome.

Think from the perspective of creating a movie in the audiences’ mind by conveying the 5 senses to them while you deliver the story itself. Set the scene in the audience in vivid detail and your audience will vest in your message. Bring it to life with as many of the senses as you can and you’ll be impressed at how well your audience connects with your story, speech or presentation.

If we effectively use the powerful tool of storytelling we build an emotional connection and rapport with our audience which can dramatically improve our speaking/leadership outcomes. So, take these simple steps to bring storytelling into your speaking or leadership communication repertoire and you’ll see how powerful they can be.

What’s your story? How will you use these storytelling techniques to improve your communication outcomes? As always, please do leave questions or comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

Joseph Guarino is a professional public speaker, trainer and owner of the Institute of Public Speaking a Boston based international public speaking & leadership training organization. As a seasoned public speaking trainer & professional speaker he enjoys helping other succeed in this worthy and rewarding craft. The Institute of Public Speaking offers a variety of public speaking courses for individuals (1 on 1 training), executive speech coaching, one day public speaking bootcamps, advanced public speaking bootcamps and public speaking seminars for corporations & groups of any size.
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