Speak Out to Play a Bigger Game

Leaders tell stories – Here’s why

April 11, 2019 | Paula Smith


The power of story

Thanks to neuroscience we have learned a lot over the past few years about just how powerful stories can be.

We now know which brain chemicals cause us to pay attention and which chemicals help us to connect with others. A great story releases a rush of brain chemicals like Cortisol (which helps you to handle stress), Dopamine – the brains reward neurotransmitter and Oxytocin – The love, bonding and trust hormone.

The most fascinating research into stories uncovered that the same brain chemicals can be released when we think about doing something as when we are actually doing it.

Have you ever dreamed that you were driving a fast sports car and woke up feeling excited and pumped? Those thoughts activated parts of the brain that would have been activated if you were really driving that car. Depending how great your imagination was of course at the time.

When the brain sees or hears a story, its neurons fire in the same patterns as the speaker’s brain. This is known as neural coupling. “Mirror neurons” create coherence between a speaker’s brain and the brains of audience members. Wow!

Storytelling is art, science and practice just like presenting.

If you tell a story well, your audience will get lost in the storytelling moment and stories will synchronize the listener’s brain with the storyteller’s brain. 

Can you get addicted to stories? Absolutely!

Have you ever been distracted by constant thoughts of your favourite TV show, after a cliff-hanger the night before? I thought so. 

Telling stories isn’t just for fun, we can use stories to learn, to persuade, to lead and to bond and we have been doing it for thousands of years. Long before power point, data dumps and workbooks took over our classrooms and conference platforms

It’s time to get back to sharing our stories.

Are you using stories to connect better with staff, customers, team members or in your presentations? Are you leading with stories?

The best storytellers are passionate about the stories they share, they are clear about the purpose and the moral/message of the story they are sharing. They plan, craft and rehearse their stories to ensure they make an impact.

Some keynote speakers have a signature story and their whole speaking career is based around that one story, others like myself have a catalogue of stories. A whole bunch of stories that can be called upon and used to emphasise a point, help others learn or to inspire an audience.

Stories can make us laugh, make us cry, make us pay attention and yes, they help us to learn.

When teaching the art of storytelling, the most common concern I get from the participants, is that they don’t have any exciting stories to share.

You all have stories to share.

Stories do not have to be remarkable, stories do not have to be amazing. A story is about sharing an experience and some of the most unremarkable experiences have the most powerful lessons behind them.

Your stories are created every day. I bet that even today, just waking up and getting off to work could have a hidden story in it that could help others learn from your mistakes or experiences. Did you sleep through the alarm? was there enough milk in the fridge for your morning coffee? did you trip over the dog getting up out of bed or did you nearly drive through a red light because you were tired or distracted?

For each of these events, a compelling story could be crafted and embedded into one of your presentations, training courses or influential conversations today. What you may consider is your boring life, can provide fantastic content for a great story.

Creating your brand story (narrative) for your business/organisation is also another skill that can make a huge difference to your marketing and client engagement. So, what are you waiting for?  

Want to learn more about Presentation Intelligence ® Powerful Presenting and Stories? Reach out to explore how we can work together.

Keynote Speaker CSP, Master Trainer and Coach
Paula has been helping experts, entrepreneurs, leaders and teams to harness the power of powerful presentation skills and high-level communication for the past 30 years. 

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