Why the Best Speakers are Storytellers

by Dave Kerpen

Nothing connects us like stories–they engage us with an emotional appeal and shared meaning, leading the way for empathy and understanding. From this, comes the ability for an audience to relate with you. As people, we learn through shared experiences and narrative structure provides a gateway for that learning.

Storytelling holds the keys to true persuasion. When you can tell a great, relevant story, your points are emphasized and meaning can be discovered in the details. Great stories move listeners to action.

Stories stick. I can’t tell you what I had for breakfast last week, but I can recall a great story that I heard. Stories have the power to grab an audience’s attention–and hold it. When you have something to say, share a story to provide the context that better ensures the audience will remember your ideas and share them with others.

I remember the first time I truly embraced the power of storytelling over presenting. I was keynoting a social media conference in Long Island, New York and I was talking about responsiveness after a company makes a mistake. I decided at that moment to talk publicly for the first time about one of the largest mistakes our company had ever made.

I asked everyone politely to put down their phones and stop filming or tweeting. Then I was totally raw and vulnerable in sharing the details of what had gone wrong, and how I had personally screwed up, even in the face of solving the original mistake.

It was really hard for me to do – but my story paid off tremendously. Dozens of people walked up to me afterwards and said it was the best speech they’d ever seen. They thanked me – for my truth, for my transparency – and most of all, for my storytelling.

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