Influencing Your Audience, Part 1: Stories vs Statistics

Thinking On Your Feet


Have you ever walked up to the podium to deliver a PowerPoint presentation, only to discover that the projector suddenly wouldn’t function and you couldn’t deliver it as planned? What would you do if this happened to you?

This happened to a colleague of mine – we’ll call her Suzanne. After accepting the reality of the situation, Suzanne thought on her feet and decided to tell stories related to the slides she was going to show. She even pretended to click through the slides as if they were there and, via her words, painted a picture of what each slide was about. She captured the imagination of her audience. At the end of the meeting, many people came up to her to say it was one of the best presentations they had ever had in their business association!

It’s said that many things are invented or discovered accidentally due to an “error.” The fact that stories work to engage and communicate with an audience – even when connected to something as commonplace as a PowerPoint – is very instructive.

The Power of Storytelling


Storytelling has the potential to draw in huge amounts of business and revenue – just look at Hollywood and the publishing industry. Regardless of how your presentation is structured, stories will help get your message across and influence your audience.

Let’s say you’re presenting new policies to employees, a new promotion to clients, or your organization’s vision to a group of stakeholders. People won’t respond well to dry facts and statistics, but they will get engaged in a good story. Quicker than you can say “the plot thickens,” your audience will understand the message you are trying to get across. When a story is the basis of your presentation, important facts and statistics become the interesting details, which lend credibility to your story.

Becoming A Storyteller

To increase your effectiveness as a business leader, it will serve you to become an effective storyteller.

But how do you come up with a story? One method is to start with a positive experience related to your presentation topic/product/service/organization/etc. It might be an experience that you had, a story that you heard from someone else, or something that happened to a customer/client. (To gather stories from customers or clients, consider asking them directly about their best experience with your product/service/organization/team/etc. Beyond providing you with a story, this will help you engage with your business’s target audience to receive feedback about what works for them.)


“ABC Freedom” (name changed, as well as other descriptions, to protect anonymity), a company that sells natural weight loss products via health food stores, had a great experience with this method.

Rob, the head of the business development division, was speaking with the head buyer for a chain of health food stores. Rob told the buyer the story of a customer, Michael, a professional who had struggled for decades to control his weight. Michael finally succeeded in losing 40 pounds and credited his success, as well as the positive life changes that resulted, to ABC Freedom’s weight loss products!

This story helped give the buyer a reason for his chain of stores to carry the product – not because a salesperson promised him that his product should work, but because he heard a story of a real person who had used it to positively change his life. Of course, Rob also provided the relevant facts and statistics, but these were supplementary, rather than central, to his presentation. Rob used Michael’s story to represent the company’s vision and values related to what they do – to help their customers “find freedom to pursue the life of their dreams.”

Creating Your Story

Rob created his story by asking Michael the following questions:

  1. “What was your life like before you found our product? What were your struggles and challenges?”
  2. “What happened when you found our product? Was there a moment when you knew something positive was happening for you?”
  3. “How has this success affected your life?”

The answers to these questions naturally form the structure of a story: Question 1 explains the person’s background and motivations; Question 2 is the story’s climax, showing a turning point which distinguishes life before the product from life after the product; Question 3 resolves the story, presenting a happy ending which results from positive experience with the product.

Consider using a similar approach when creating a story for your own business.

How I Can Help

If you need help creating your story, I’d be glad to assist you. With over 35 years of experience in leadership and management, I can help you develop techniques to better connect with your customers, clients, and employees. If you’re interested in a FREE 30-minute consultation, please call 805-965-8595