In our Insights pages, we’ve discussed ways of improving communication through developing executive presence, the key to great leadership. Collectively, these skills bring impact to the substance of your communication. Substance – the message you want to share with your audience – is made up of the facts, ideas, and experiences you choose to express. It’s the ability to connect with people and ideas beyond the surface.

Developing executive presence through storytelling:

We’ll look at the value of storytelling, and how to structure a story so that the content you are sharing or the substance of what you say is engaging and inspiring. This is the ability to turn your message into a compelling story to influence and inspire others to act. Stories help us remember more details, and to respond on a deeper and more personal level. Collect stories from your life experiences and examine them for lessons you can share with other people. We’re at our most authentic when we speak about our own experiences and we can build trust with others by being willing to be vulnerable enough to embrace our setbacks as well as our victories.

Storytelling structure:

The basic Aristotelian story structure is over 2000 years old, and has four stages:

  1. Life is led — the “once upon a time” part of the story, when you set the scene.
  2. A challenge arises. This is the “then one day” part of the story. A complication shows up to try and thwart us.
  3. The challenge is met. What did you, or someone in your story do, to solve the problem?
  4. “Life is changed”. The lesson you learned from the experience. How did it change your view of the world? What will you do differently next time?

Consider situations in your work life where this story structure might be helpful in influencing others. A story about winning a big client might encourage an anxious colleague, or a story about an embarrassing moment might help a team member feel like they’re not alone.

Storytelling tools:

Once you have the structure of your story mapped out, to help make it more engaging, consider the use of: Sensory language, Emotional language, and I-present Language.

  • Sensory language means choosing words, phrases, or images that evoke one our five senses. Challenge yourself to find ways to describe the physical sensations of your stories.
  • Emotional language refers to words and phrases that evoke feelings. If you can describe the feelings and sensations you felt in your stories, subconsciously, your audience will feel them too.
  • I-present language is the ability to tell the story as though it’s happening right now, rather than in the past. It puts your listener directly into the action, builds tension, engages the imagination and is one of the most powerful ways to connect with your audience, and to influence how they see the world.

Practise telling yourself stories with as much sensory, emotional and I-present language as you can and see how they become so much more exciting and engaging.

Look for opportunities to tell these stories. They will build your influence at work, and help you feel more authentic and confident. You can use stories when you’re presenting, coaching or even just conversing. They will help to create substance in what you say, developing your executive presence and improving communication style.

If you’ve enjoyed this snippet of our developing executive presence training course and you’re interested in learning more, get in touch using the enquiry form. A member of our team will talk you through the best training courses for your business and help you kickstart your corporate training programme.

For more information, take a look at our complete Guide to Leadership Skills.


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