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How to find stories for your startup presentations

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by Startacus Admin


Got a speech or presentation on the horizon? Vaibhav Vadera of Toastmasters International shares some basic tips to help you pick the right story for your audience...

As a startup founder you will be giving plenty of presentations and using stories is a great way to illustrate key points and to make them memorable.

It only takes a quick Google search to find endless pages describing why humans love stories. A search will also pickup scientific evidence showing that your audience is more likely to retain factual information if it is presented with a story. A great story, well told, can make you laugh and even cry. It can be so exciting that you want to retell the same story over and over again to friends and colleagues. However, when you are a speaking to an audience, it is crucial to pick the right story for the right audience. If audience members don’t relate to the story they will simply switch off.  Not what you want to have happen as you promote your startup. 

Let me share some tips that will help in the process of deciding which stories to your specific audiences. 

1. Stock up your story supplies

matthew-osborn-wMRIcT86SWU-unsplashBefore you start delivering your story, it is important to have a curated collection of stories that you can choose from.  One way to do this is to start by choosing an emotion. Let’s take happiness, for example. Take a moment to think about the most recent time you felt a sense of happiness. Then write this memory down. Include everything that happened before you felt that happiness, and everything that happened after you experienced that feeling. (It may help to ask Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?)  

Having done this, you now have a relatable story about happiness. 

Once you have a stock of stories, you can pick and choose different stories to include as part of your next speech. This will give you the option of altering the story for different audiences if you are planning on delivering the story on more than one occasion.

2. Consider your audience

With a number of stories to hand, you can start thinking about your audience. Who is in your audience? What are their values, interests and challenges? Try to really empathise with how they may be feeling. This will help you to decide what story best fits THEM. 

Think about why should they listen to you? What is in it for them?  

When you empathise with their challenges, they will want to hear more from you.  One story may work for one particular type of audience (e.g. potential investors), but may have a different impact on a different audience (e.g. new customers).

For example, when I am speaking to an audience of men, I will tell raw, personal childhood and adulthood stories to show that is it acceptable to display emotions as a man. However, when I am talking to business leaders, my stories are going to be geared around overcoming hardship and being resilient despite facing uncertainty. 

3. Trying out stories

priscilla-du-preez-Q7wGvnbuwj0-unsplashYou might not know the right story to tell straight away. You might not deliver it with the impact that you had originally intended.  You might struggle to get started with a story collection. That’s all ok! Don’t be too hard on yourself. 

It can be a process of trial and error to find the right story or combination of stories. You probably will have times when the audience doesn’t understand a reference or a joke and that is completely fine. Pause, compose yourself and keep going. 

4. If needed, mix things up 

If you are still struggling with finding the right story that will have a lasting impact on the audience, then try another approach. Tell the story in a different way, perhaps with a different narrative structure or tell it from a different perspective. Let’s take the classic children’s nursery rhyme ‘Humpty Dumpty’ as an example. As you may remember original goes like this:

Humpty Dumpty sat on the Wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

All of the king’s horse and all the king's men

Couldn't put Humpty together again

What if we take the same classic story and retell it from the perspective of one of the King’s men? It might look something like this: 

Humpty was sitting all on his own 

Suddenly he fell and I heard a big groan

My friends went to help, as he lay pale and battered

We tried all we could, but he was simply shattered. 

Finally, let’s see how the story would look from Humpty Dumpty’s perspective. 

I needed a rest, it was such a hot day

I perched on the wall, but my leg gave way

A crowd rushed to see what could be done

But I’ve broken my arm, and it’s no darn fun. 

Although this is a nursery rhyme example, the point is still valid for business speaking. Don’t assume you are stuck with delivering your information in the same old way. Any story can told in different ways. Mix it up, try a different angle and see what results you get.  

Vaibhav Vadera HR.jAnd finally, don’t be shy about sharing deeply personal stories. There are plenty of stories in your life your audience can relate to. As a startup founder you will be aiming to influence your audience so be courageous and authentic as you share your stories. That way your influence will be greater.


Vaibhav Vadera is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit

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Published on: 19th August 2022

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