Storyopia: For Presentations That Rock

Whether you’re presenting a workshop, lecture, training, or seminar, tell stories that relate to your audience’s journey and they’ll leave feeling like heroes.

Storyopia, like utopia, represents the ideal. It’s the ideal story that takes audiences on a journey from what is to what could be. A journey to where they see themselves as heroes along that same path.

Join the sensibility of today’s industry giants such as Amazon, Google, Apple, Starbucks, Airbnb, Netflix, Zappos, GlaxoSmithKline, and others that are renouncing data-laden PowerPoints (and its clones) and energizing audiences with storyopia.


The human brain is wired for stories. They preserve cultures and pass family lore from one generation to the next. In essence, stories connect people and help us grow.

Whether you’re presenting a workshop, lecture, training, or whatever, you’re presenting a story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. That’s a story. Think of novels you’ve read or movies you’ve watched. They all have plots and subplots. Your plot is your topic and your subplots are the stories you weave in to make the presentation more engaging and relevant. But where do writers get their plots and subplots? From the same places you can: personal experiences.


Open your eyes. Open your ears. Open your mind. Stories are all around you. The key is to be aware and pay attention to your life and the lives of others. Be curious. Look about. Observe with all your senses. Take up a new hobby. Explore new places. Talk with people. Ask lots of questions. Everyday life offers an endless plethora of experiences—all of which are potential stories. When you mine experiences for stories, you can help make your point seamlessly and entice your audiences to heed the call to action.

In addition to drawing from your own experiences, poach from the experiences of friends and colleagues. Check with your marketing and sales teams—they always have good stories to share.


To make your stories engaging, give your main character a name. People relate to a name better than they relate to the words, “my client,” “my colleague,” or “my manager.” Using a name creates a connection with your audience, and the story becomes more relatable and memorable. Also, use sensory words to engage your audience’s imagination so they can see, hear, smell, taste, or feel what you did.


To mine stories from your past and present experiences, prepare three columns, each headed with a noun: People. Places. Things.

  • Under People, write down past and present people in your life (mentors, friends, colleagues, or even adversaries). Think of what each person represents and why they’re important to you.
  • In the Places column, note past and present places (vacation spots, classrooms, offices, hangouts, etc.). Jot down the sounds, scents, and visuals these places trigger.
  • Under Things, list the things that remind you of positive or negative experiences (movies, pets, gifts, sports, anything else that comes to mind).

Once you’ve found at least five in each column, you’ll have planted seeds of stories. Start making connections between the people, places, and things. Watch those seeds germinate and sprout.


It’s OK if you embellish your stories with fanciful details. Even Mark Twain once said, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” The difference between a boring story and an interesting one involves three things: authenticity, emotions, and embellishment.

Sometimes you need to add a little flavor to highlight the moral of the story and make it more memorable, just as you add spices to a recipe to make it more flavorful. Remember, it’s your story, not a legal document (the latter must be 100 percent factual).

Your stories should include goals, struggles, challenges, and a positive or negative outcome (either one serves as a valuable lesson). Tell stories that relate to your audience’s journey. They’ll leave feeling like heroes—and you’ll be one to them!

Sheryl Lindsell-Roberts
Sheryl Lindsell-Roberts has been a training professional for the last 25 years. She’s the author of 25 books, including “New Rules for Today’s Workplace,” “Speaking Your Way to Success,” “Technical Writing for Dummies,” “Storytelling for Dummies,” and several other Dummies books. She’s been quoted in The New York Times and other publications and has appeared on radio and television networks throughout the United States.