“Stories are good, you should use them more often. And it’s important to put yourself in your stories.”

That’s good advice.

But these days a lot of people pass out advice like that, and then you ask them to explain themselves, and they tell you stuff like, “It makes you seem more authentic. It makes you seem more vulnerable.”

They use a bunch of words that nobody understands. Nobody really knows how to implement the advice.

There’s a simpler and more direct reason that stories work well, and that is just that people are social animals and they like to see how other people interact with other people.

So sometimes a story is as simple as, “I walked down the street and I went to a restaurant for lunch, and I learned about XYZ. After lunch, then I had to go to get a haircut, and I learned about ABC.”

Maybe the actual point of your speech is to teach people about XYZ and ABC. The reason that you’re using a story to do it is because it holds people’s attention longer. A well-told story can hold attention for pretty much ever.

Of course, keep in mind what your audience is there for and what they want. That’s the golden rule. In a business presentation, your audience probably wants to know something like the quarter’s sales numbers. They don’t care about your daughter’s boyfriend’s personal hygiene challenges.

Maybe in a personal story, you’re going to talk about your daughter’s boyfriend’s personal hygiene challenges because people want to know about stuff like that and how that affects you, but with business audiences, your stories are probably going to be shorter and they’ll often just be three or four sentences.

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About Matt Krause

Matt began his professional life managing inventory levels for wholesale import companies and forecasting labor costs for national retail chains. Since 2006, he has been teaching professionals how to present themselves and their companies better. His clients work for companies like Citibank, Microsoft, 3M, P&G, and HP.