Want your pitches to be irresistible? Use storytelling

Want your pitches to be irresistible? Use storytelling

My new course, “Effective pitching through storytelling“, is for anyone who needs to make pitches or grab the attention of an audience and keep them listening. It illustrates the immediate impact that compelling storytelling makes, providing structures that can be relied upon even in the most stressful and high-impact situations.

My co-trainer is the brilliant Andrew Tidmarsh. Here, he explains why storytelling is such a powerful mechanism for winning business in competitive pitches:

The Key to Pitching: Story – As Essential as Food or Air

By Andrew Tidmarsh

We introduce our children to stories as early as possible. They primarily entertain, but also instruct and inform. The world is a less scary place if it is divided up into the binary values of good and evil — this is what fairy tales do. The gingerbread man gets eaten by the fox because he foolishly thinks the fox will keep him safe from the water; he makes a mistake by jumping on the fox’s nose, and subsequently pays for this mistake with his life. Cinderella is virtuous and kind, unlike her step-sisters; she deserves to marry the prince. These stories for children make a clear distinction between good and bad.

Stories also take the shape of parable and allegory, embraced by religious teaching and political discourse. Whether it is a New Testament story about the prodigal son or George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the story makes the message easy to understand and acts as a threshold to matters of complexity. Our ability to understand abstraction is facilitated when ideas are packaged into a story. Narratives provide a kind of osmosis; information can easily pass through a story and into our understanding. This is one of the fundamental powers of story, and one we can utilise in our daily communication.

Neuroscience reinforces the appeal and usefulness of story. Two pieces of research are striking. The first involves areas of activity in the brain which become active when we are involved in a narrative. It seems that there is little distinction between the parts of the brain that fire up when an experience is being remembered, or those that are active when something is being imagined. When engaged in a story, identical parts of the brain are being utilised in the narrator and the listener. Our memory is the only thing that distinguishes whether it actually happened to us, or whether we heard it as someone else’s experience. Neuroscientists refer to this psychic communion as Neural Coupling.

The second useful fact provided by neuroscience involves how busy the brain becomes when we are involved in a story. When we receive only information, one part of the brain is active; when we are experiencing a narrative, several parts of the brain are engaged. Neurological activity occurs in parts of the brain normally associated with sensing and experiencing. The implication of this is that your audience is less likely to become distracted if they are listening to a story rather than a list of facts and figures. Storytelling provides the key to keeping the brain busy and an audience gripped.

All the work I do now involves story structures. Whether I am working as a film-maker, teacher, or communication consultant, I explore the frame-work of a story and how this story might be told in a more effective or compelling way. When working with a client on one of their company’s power-point presentations I suggest utilising the power of story more completely than simply as a ‘narrative hook’. There is little point ‘wowing’ an audience with a gripping story in an introduction and then returning to the tedious facts and figures in the main part of the presentation.

The secret is to embed the facts and figures — indeed the whole presentation — in a narrative. I have seen presentations about online security, surviving an economic downturn, or even selling cheese come alive by using the same simple narrative principles. These principles are those that make a Hollywood movie or television sitcom irresistible. An audience is kept hungry for information and the facts and figures easily absorbed as they now seem connected to something bigger — something more human. These deceptively simply structures can be employed to make our presentations, pitches and talks as essential to an audience as the food we eat or the air we breathe.

To find out more about “Effective pitching through storytelling”, or to book a course, please call me on 020 7549 3644 or email me at robert@roberttaylorcommunications.com

Article date

February 19th, 2016

Robert Taylor

Media Trainer


My main passion is media training, and I’m proud to be one of the UK’s most experienced and successful trainers in this field.

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