Giving Presentations and Storytelling: My Top Tips


When you give a presentation, how do you get your audience to buy-in to your message?

One way is sharing a vulnerable example of how your message has helped you personally.

You need to be genuinely vulnerable (not just pretend to be vulnerable) to show you’re human, with your own struggles. But also show how you’ve been helped.

Watch this 2 minute clip from my keynote speech about Cycling Home from Siberia. By this point in the speech I’ve already shared about the mindsets that helped me survive… so in this clip, I switch to a story that the business audience will relate to more – the importance of having an adventurous attitude towards challenge at WORK! What do you think?

I’m a professional speaker, and speak to large corporate business conferences 40-50 times a year, but I still feel genuinely vulnerable as I share stories like this – but I think that makes the speech more effective – so I owe it to my audience.

So next time you preparing a message, ask yourself: “Do I have a personal, vulnerable example to illustrate this point.” (then try it on a friend to check it will work – you don’t want to share a vulnerable story that bombs!)

Engaging Your Audience

How should you start so that your audience quickly becomes engaged?

Here are my 7 top tips of what you can include in the first 2 minutes:

  1. Tell a story which draws them in (we can’t help but pay attention when we hear a good story)
  2. Make them laugh (ideally several times)
  3. Surprise them
  4. Get them involved (ask a question and ask them to put up their hands, etc)
  5. Give them some teasers to get them interested in knowing what you are going to share in the whole presentation
  6. Be humble (but at the same time be very clear and high quality in your speaking)
  7. Be vulnerable – let them know you are human and have your own struggles (gets them on your side)

Watch the first 2 minutes of a speech I recently gave in Dublin for 1200 sales reps. Try to notice the ways I brought in all seven of the above elements, and set the whole speech up.

Even if you don’t have time to work out how to include all of these, see if you can include at least 1 or 2 elements. (I have been speaking professionally for 10 years, so I have had plenty of time to practice).


When you want to hit home an important message in your keynote speech or conference session, how do you do it?

Here is a simple structure that I was taught and that has helped me as a professional speaker. There are three simple stages:

  1. STORY (tell a good story, which engages the audience, ideally with some emotion too – laughter, sadness, surprise, etc. If the story involves you personally – then that can help as well!)
  2. CONCEPT (explain the concept that the story illustrates – so that the audience can understand why it is important; you can also add some credibility to the concept by quoting statistics, studies, academic authorities, etc)
  3. APPLICATION (show how this applies to the audience – you could just do this with a challenging question for them, or explain in more detail how it applies).

Watch the 3 minute edit from a recent speech I gave in Europe. Try to notice the ways I used the structure of:


I hope these help you next time you are planning a presentation. Feel free to share this with your teams if it’s helpful.