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How many of us have carefully prepared our PowerPoint bullet points and graphs for an important presentation, then shared the information with all of its compelling details—only to look out and see the audience snoozing?

While we might think that professionalism means following a formal, black-and-white structure, there most certainly is a need for a balance—and often, a more colorful narrative. And it’s a scientific fact!

Our brains eat stories up.

Weaving rich stories into our presentations and conversations at work can effectively change our ability to inform and persuade for the better. {Click to tweet}

Weaving rich stories into our presentations and conversations at work can effectively change our ability to inform and persuade for the better.

Lighten up your next audience’s brains with these tips:


As humans, we are wired to be quick to empathize, relate, and make connections.

The brain naturally draws personal parallels to story characters, arousing oxytocin activity in the brain, which creates a relationship as though the character in a story were a person impacting your audience’s real life.

How can you incorporate this into your own presentations?

Consider this: What was the “a-ha” moment during your research that led to your hypothesis? Was there a memorable moment along the way to your solution? Is there any interesting background action to set the stage?

Steve Jobs successfully (and famously) modeled anecdote-sharing when his presentation clicker broke during the first iPhone demo in 2007. He recalled a personal account about his shenanigans with Steve Wozniak in college in just a few minutes. The audience noticeably became more engaged in this moment, as the humor and character development of Jobs’ tale transported them into the lives of these revolutionary men.


The more activated various regions of the listener’s brain are, the more involved they become in the story.

(Have you ever felt so engrossed in a TV show that you begin fretting about the outcomes of the main character’s drama in between episodes? Exactly.)

Researchers know that high levels of dopamine are released during emotional encounters, even when people are experiencing them indirectly. So, a story’s greatest benefits can be lost without engaging the five senses with vivid imagery and heightened emotion.

A story’s greatest benefits can be lost without engaging the five senses with vivid imagery and heightened emotion.

Going back to Jobs’ short story, he set the scene of a dorm room, described a student lifting his foot up walking towards the TV to fix the picture he and Wozniak messed up with their invented device—and then even distorts his body into a one-legged stance to imitate what the victims of their pranks would do to keep the TV picture clear. If you are standing in front of an audience, use body language to your advantage by showing as your telling.

Recent studies have shown that long-term memory is also increased with high levels of dopamine. So, not only will your audience remember your story, but they’ll also be able to more clearly perceive the rewards of your information, and ultimately take action to achieve them.


Scientists have found surprisingly little difference in the neurological stimulation of the brain when an event is told and when an event is experienced in real-life. Well-told stories trigger the brain in almost the exact same way as when we are actually experiencing a particular action.

For example, hearing or reading about a cookie using descriptive words like “warm, soft, and cinnamon-y” stimulates the brain’s cortexes related to taste, touch, and smell in ways similar to when you’re actually eating a delicious cinnamon cookie.

Metaphors and alliteration put the audience in a position of internalizing and “experiencing” an event in their mind. Keep complex information digestible by comparing it to relatable or interesting events.

If a process saves the company time for example, how about comparing that amount of time to a catchy activity? I was recently coaching a colleague on this as he was rolling out a new feature of our software product. We concluded that instead of just presenting the data as an 8-hour time saver, he would say, “In the 8.5 hours our system runs the old report, the fastest spacecraft in history traveled all the way from the Earth to the moon. However, with our new automated process, the same report is produced in only 20 minutes. That’s just the time it takes us to grab a coffee down the street!”

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The possibilities of structuring stories into your conversations and presentations are endless. Be creative—your audience will repay you with their full attention, and consequent action.

This post originally appeared on Career Contessa ( and was written by Author Katilin King.

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