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How can your storytelling be more effective?

Stories are effective. Adding a visual element can make your stories even more effective.

On Saturday, I attended a memorial service for my 101-year-old grandfather. The stories that my aunts and uncles and cousins shared were phenomenal. Storytelling is such a powerful means of communication, especially when you can picture what’s happening in the story.

But what happens when you aren’t quite as familiar with the subject matter or situation in the story?

In his book Brain Rules, John Medina writes: “Vision trumps all other senses… we learn and remember best through pictures, not through written or spoken words.” So how do we add the sense of sight to our storytelling?  

Guided Visualization

Allowing your participants to get into their own minds during your story is a step you can take to let them have some ownership over your story. If you have a relatively short story (guided visualization doesn’t work as well for longer stories), and you’re not presenting immediately after lunch (the temptation to sleep may be too great, regardless of how amazing your story), simply ask your participants to close their eyes.

Begin by saying something along the lines of: “Close your eyes and picture this situation…”

Then tell your story as your audience uses their mind’s eye to visualize the events of your story.


Put your bullet points down. I’m not suggesting that you litter a slide or two or four or ten with the details of your story.

I’m suggesting a story with images, somewhat like story time in a pre-school where the teacher reads the story and shows the illustrations to eagerly attentive children.

You tell the story and allow PowerPoint to paint the picture. Need some help finding imagery? Try one or more of these sites.

Narrated Video

I’ve worked with clients where an extremely experienced staff member owns the best stories. That person may not always be available (and someday he’ll retire), so capturing his story on an audio file and setting it to powerful imagery can be a way to consistently tell the story every time.

This can be done in PowerPoint, Camtasia or many other applications.

Video with a Soundtrack

I’ve seen this strategy used effectively to make an emotional appeal, which is a key element to effective change initiatives.

With this strategy, you find photos that tell your story and supplement it with a song that helps create an appropriate mood. Your photos may be of people in the field exhibiting new behaviors, finished projects on which new people are being trained or even training participants engaged in the previous day’s activities.

Above are four strategies to make your stories more effective, but if you’re looking for some help to simply organize your stories, try:

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