Storytelling In Speeches: 9 Ways To Hypnotize Your Audience

Storytelling for speeches

Storytelling is a creative way to communicate by using words and actions to describe ideas, beliefs, personal experiences, and life lessons. Adding stories to speeches evoke emotion, and listeners often relate to the situations created, which make storytelling a useful vehicle for persuading and informing listeners.

Storytelling is an art form that has captivated and connected humanity throughout history. It is a powerful means of communication that transcends cultures and generations and remains a relevant tool today.

Whether you are a professional storyteller, a writer, or someone who enjoys the magic of a well-crafted tale, storytelling invites us all to engage with our creativity, curiosity, and imagination. It is a highly effective addition to speeches.

What Is The Concept Of Storytelling?

Stories have been an integral part of human culture for centuries. Since the beginning of time, humans have used storytelling to impart knowledge, pass down traditions, and teach new generations about history and core values.

At its core, written and oral storytelling creates an emotional connection between the storyteller and the audience. A good storyteller will transport the listener into another world where they can experience emotions and gain a deeper understanding of the story.


In speeches, stories tend to be personal, universal, or application. For example, in a speech on the impact of 9/11, these approaches might be useful.

Personal: “I remember getting to work early on 9/11, before the bomb hit. I wanted to get some coffee and a croissant in a cafe near my building. I had no sooner gotten the food in my hand when the first plane hit. I ran a couple blocks from the cafe and nervously drank my coffee as I watched the unbelievable events unfolding.”

Universal: “During the 9/11 attacks and the ensuing rescue effort, firemen were immediately regarded as heroes. Mike Smith was a teen then who anticipated a career in public service. Seeing the importance of police and firefighters, he pursued a career in firefighting. Across the country, many other teens thinking of their career choices decided to be firefighters.”

Application: “Are having trouble choosing a career, especially when you don’t know anyone who does what you want to do? That’s a time to research some prominent example of those who do that type of working. For example, after 9/11, the great work done by firefighters made many think twice about this career path.”

What Is Storytelling, And Why Is It Important?

There are many types of stories told.

We may tell stories purely for entertainment, or we may use storytelling as a means of maintaining a historical record. Some are real-life stories told for the purpose of teaching as a cautionary tale.

No matter the story type, storytelling’s power is in its ability to inform, entertain, and keep history alive.

A good story will captivate the audience’s attention and create a connection between the storyteller and listener (or reader). Doing this allows a great storyteller to inspire, motivate, and make complex ideas more relatable. This makes storytelling one of the most effective ways to teach and give perspective to the world around us.

The elements of storytelling are particularly useful in making speeches more interesting to the audience. No matter what the audience is listening to, they relate to the narrative found in stories.

What Are The Different Types Of Storytelling?

The art of storytelling can take several forms. Among the most notable are:

  • Oral storytelling. This is the oldest form of storytelling. The human need to pass along information through storytelling has been noted since the beginning of time. In modern form, we find storytelling as a technique used in podcasts and Ted talks.
  • Visual storytelling. These stories are told with images or media and are now heavily intertwined with digital storytelling. This type of storytelling may include infographics, memes used in social media, pictures, etc. Often visual storytelling is used as part of marketing efforts.
  • Written storytelling. Books, magazines, and even content marketing are all examples of written storytelling.
Oral story teling

What Are The 4 Elements Of Good Storytelling?

There are 4 essential elements of good storytelling. They are:

  • Plot that tells what happen
  • Characters, the acotrs in the pilot
  • Setting that tells where the event took place
  • Theme that ties everything together.

Needless to say, a story used in a talk is a ladder to get to the next part of the speech. The speaker moves through these elements quickly.

How Stories Are Incorporated Into Speeches

Speaker can insert stories into their speeches in several ways.

Monomyth – The Hero’s Journey

Herbert went on a journey, met obstacles, and came home a hero.

In retelling the story, the audience use their imagination to part of the adventure as they saw the benefits of bravery and risk-taking.

Rags to Riches

Horatio worked night and day in his shoe-shining business. His perseverance paid off when he discovered a new polish that prevented scuffing. He was hired by a major shoe polish manufacturer and was soon a vice president.

The story offers hope in the face of difficulties.

Rags-to-riches technique

The Mountain

Musician Hank Williams, Jr. was literally climbing Ajax mountain in southwestern Montana when he stepped on what appeared to be snowy ground. He fell 500 feet onto rock and split his head open. This was at a low point in his life that was worsened by the fall that left him unable to talk and site. After two touch-and-go years in recovery, he regained his career and his life.

The approach to using storytelling shows how you overcame challenges in a suspenseful way even if your does not end as successfully as Hank’s.

Nested Loops

John Prine, a mailman from Chicago, was drafted to go Vietnam in 1968. He was sent to Germany instead, as part of a motorpool.

During the Vietnam War, may soldiers developed drug problems and PTSD, which changed the civilian lives forever.

Prine returned to Chicago and started a career in music. One of his electrifying early songs was “Sam Stone,” about a solder who came home addicted to painkillers and died of an overdose. This song helped establish Prine’s reputation as a songwriter who successfully presented the human condition.

The speaker presents the initial part of several stories, with the important one being in the middle. The theory is that audiences are fascinated by interrupted stories. The technique takes an interesting journey to a conclusion.

Nested loop. Sam Stone, Vetnam vet, hering user


Just before the pandemic, I had a second knee surgery. I had planned on going to physical therapy at a center that had a NuStep machine, a type of recumbent bike that was helpful to me after my first surgery on the other knee. As I couldn’t go to outpatient therapy, I got a Cubii machine for under my desk that felt somewhat like a Nustep and helped me complete my recovery.

This approach gives unexpected hope as it shows the value of a product that made things better.

False Start

J.K. Rowlings is known for her writing of the Harry Potter series of books. The audience at a Harvard University Commencement speech in 2008was anticipating hearing her talk about her writing, but instead she launched into a story of a period of her life when felt like she was a failure. Her speech was a motivational one about she turned perceived failure into success.

In a false start speech, the audience expect one thing, but the speaker changes gears and takes the audience by surprise so they pay more attention to message.

In Medias Res (into the middle of things)

“Breaking Bad” opens with Walter White in the desert in skivvies and a gas mask. Two apparently dead drug dealers lie in the back of an RV Walt is driving. He crashed the RV into a ditch and walks away. Subsequent scenes reveal his home situation, dead-end career, lung cancer, and his recent success at cooking crystal meth. His crystal meth career is key to the plot of the whole series.

The technique starts with the key plot point before presenting the backstory.

Petal Structure

In the movie The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, four teenaged girls have one pair of jeans that fits each of them just right. Each one wears the lucky pants through a series of adventures. The pants are the focus of the story as viewers see stories of each girl when she is wearing the jeans that ravel from one person to another.

The stories help the audience understand the main point through a series of stories or examples to clarify a main point. Although the example is from fiction, the petal concept can be used to discuss a series of related ideas.

Converging Ideas

Great ideas often come about when multiple people are working on the same thing. Stanford PhD students Larry Page and Sergey Brin didn’t like each other, but after working on a research project together, they became partners and the founders of Google.

The converging ideas story line shows how projects and product develop, often through partnerships that result.

Coverging idead - Lary Page & Sergey Brin, founders of Google
Ehud Kenan, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What Are The Differences Between Storytelling And Narrative?

Storytelling and narrative are closely related concepts but have some distinct differences.

Storytelling refers to the act of conveying a sequence of events or experiences through mediums such as,

  • Spoken word
  • Written word
  • Visual images

A story usually follows a standard structure with a beginning, middle, and end. Within that, there is a plot that includes characters who face a dilemma and resolution.

On the other hand, narrative is a broader concept that encompasses the underlying structure of the story. It involves the way events are connected and the perspective from which the story is told.

The narrative involves the following:

  • Creating a connection between events.
  • The use of perspective. Perspectives can be first person, third person, multiple viewpoints, or omnipresent narrator.
  • Interpretation of events to provide meaning and context to the story.

Lorin Harrott

After years as a professional speaker and corporate trainer,Lorin Harrott has turned her attention to sharing her knowledge through writing. She's currently a writer, photographer, and mom in Sacramento, CA, with occasional speaking engagements related to education and STEM topics in the public school system.

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