Stories are one of the most powerful ways to get people to engage with your ideas

At the last Confident Speakers Masterclass our speaking discussion point was storytelling and our theme was innovation and imagination.

We heard 2 distinctly different speeches. The first was a speech from Marko entitled “The post-modern man”. This speech led us through a carefully crafted journey with a trio of stories beginning with Napoleon Bonapart. We were left with the clear message “The truth doesn’t matter it’s all about how we feel”.

Our second speech was from Lorenzo entitled “Innovation for human beings”. It was highly descriptive and peppered with humour. And introduced us to a highly quirky Japanese invention; the hugging machine!  Altogether a thought-provoking speech that prompted us to consider innovation to help others.


Storytelling is an essential tool in the repertoire of any interesting and inspiring speaker. And let’s be honest that is what we all aspire to be. 

We want people to listen to what we have say and for them to find it useful, inspiring, funny, surprising and any number of positive reactions.

We all have stories that we love to tell about things we believe others will find interesting.

But delivery can sometimes let us down and we lose our audience before we are able to communicate that gem of information that we really want them to know about.


How not to be boring when telling a story

Bring the details to life 

In my early career I was in logistics which is essentially solving the problem of moving boxes from A to B in the most efficient way possible. This means add nothing in, remove as many steps as possible, keep it lean. 

This is perhaps the antithesis of storytelling. When you tell a story you want your listeners to visualise, feel and imagine the experience.

You can achieve this through descriptive language, embellishing, going into enough detail to really transport your listener into your world. This is not the most direct, utilitarian expression of an idea. This is taking the time to set a scene that your listener wants to step into and know more about.

How can you be descriptive?

The technique we explored at Confident Speakers was the use of VAKS. A way of describing situations, places, people and events by using all the senses.

V = Visual – what you saw

A = Audio – what you heard

K = Kinesthetic – what you felt / experienced

S = Smell – what you smelt

Most efficient route

Visual – It was raining so hard I couldn’t see the road.


Audio – I could hear the rain on the roof.


Kinesthetic – I jumped when I heard a clap of thunder


Smell – When the rain stopped everything smelt fresher.

Descriptive route

Visual – The rain was falling out of the sky in sheets. I could barely see where I was going. The windscreen wipers were moving so fast that they looked like they might snap off at any moment. 

I could hear the rain pitter-patter on the roof whilst the wipers screeched across the wet, smeared windscreen. 


I nearly jumped out of my skin when a huge clap of thunder made the surrounding buildings shake.


When the rain stopped a fresh, earthy fragrance filled the air.


Using descriptive language adds colour, feeling and emotion to stories

Use reported speech

Let your characters speak for themselves

One of the simplest ways to bring characters to life in your story is to use reported speech.

As a listener, it feels like we were there hearing their actual words first hand. It gives us a chance to think about our own reactions to the words without the storyteller’s interpretation.

I don’t know why you had to take so long. I’ve been waiting half an hour!

Let’s us imagine how the character in the story sees things and is far more than powerful than she complained that I was late.



The power of storytelling



Using the hero’s quest as a basis for your storytelling will add suspense and interest. Your audience will be rooting for your protagonist and the advice your guru gives could be useful advice to anyone listening to your story.

The hero's quest

How it works

  • The Quest – The storyteller has an ambition, goal, wish that they want to achieve.

  • Next comes the challenge which you need to fail 

  • The next step along the journey somebody “your guru” offers you a solution and you take their advice. This advice could also be very useful to your audience

  • Summing this advice up into a short, powerful phrase makes it easier to remember

  • Once you take the advice you overcome your challenge and achieve your goal

If you want to find out more about techniques that will enhance your confidence and make you a better speaker, contact us about our Confident Speakers Masterclass
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Confident Speakers is a collaboration between The English Class Room and Kevin Baggs (Professional Public Speaker and Distinguished Toastmaster)

More information on public speaking can be found in Kevin’s book Banish the fear; Present Professionally. Available to buy at The Eng;lish Class Room and on Amazon.