How to Use Stories & Case Studies in Speaking

How to Communicate – 10 Ideas For Using Stories and Case Studies in Your Next Speech

A speech is more than a collection of dry facts. Stories make your talk come alive. Storytelling is a powerful way to drill your message into the listener’s mind. Stories are a great way of emotionally connecting with an audience. Stories engage the audience and raise their levels of motivation, acceptance, and approval. No matter how dry the topic, a personal story will build trust with the audience since you’ll come across as human. These 10 ideas will help you give a talk that connects with an audience, moves them to action and leaves a positive impression.

1. Power Opening.

Start your story with a bang! Captivate and create an emotional bond with the audience. What is the one idea you want the audience to hear, remember, and act on? This one idea is the thesis of the speech. Introduce it early in a powerful opening.

2. Embrace Humor.

But never tell jokes. Self-depreciating humor works best. The audience who smiles with you is more sympathetic to your argument. Make sure that you connect humor to the point you are making. Keep it short and sweet, not long and drawn-out. Avoid saying, “This is a funny” before you speak. Avoid offensive and off-color humor.

3. Learn theatrical techniques.

Doug Stevenson ( shows speakers how to tell stories using powerful performance techniques. Doug teaches how to tell stories in present-time, stepping IN and OUT of your persona when on stage.

4. Make the audience the hero of the story.

Turn the ‘I’ in your story into the ‘we’. Use metaphors and analogies to help explain new concepts. Analogies are best taken from common experiences that everyone shares.

5. Develop a compelling plot.

Keep the story-line simple. Build a story arc. Consider starting the story in the middle – this is a real attention-grabber. Set the scene and introduce the characters. Stories with conflict are interesting. Create an obstacle, then describe and how it was overcome.

6. Develop Case Studies.

A good case study is more than just a description. Discuss the issues involved. List the options – the range of possible solutions. Highlight the dilemma faced – make it interesting. Explain how a decision was arrived at. Summarize with a conclusion.

7. Be authentic.

Authenticity is crucial. Your story must be congruent with your tongue, feet and wallet. Put yourself into the story. Tell compelling stories which are grounded in everyday reality. Make the story something you care about, something from your background.

8. Connect with the audience emotionally.

The best way to engage an audience is to tap into their emotions. A story is the emotional fast lane to the brain allowing people to feel genuine emotion. Don’t just present dry facts. Deep learning takes place when the audience experiences stories that create triggers the listener feels emotionally, not just thinks about conceptually.

9. Ground the story in the context of the moment.

Prepare your story to fit the climate, culture and mission of the audience without losing the spirit of your message. Show, don’t tell.

10. Use specific details.

The more specific, concrete, details you include, the clearer the situation will be to the audience. Leverage a known name or brand. Instead of a bar of soap say Irish Spring. Use the largest unit of measurement. Over a quarter century is a more compelling statement than saying 25 years.

Speakers who use some of these ideas in developing their next speech will connect with the audience in ways they would not dream possible. Don’t just read stories to your kids. Tell us a story.

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Ian Griffin writes speeches and training materials for CEOs and senior leaders in Silicon Valley and around the world. His website and blog on executive communications and professional speaking is He can be reached at or at 510-962-4721

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