How to Start Your Presentation Off With a Story…and Why You Want To

Starting a presentation off with a story starts your presentation off with a bang. It captures your audience’s attention and signals “This isn’t going to be one of those boring Death By PowerPoint presentations.

When choosing an opening story, use this list to see how many of these objectives your story accomplishes. Different stories acccomplish different groupings of objectives, so you might find yourself with two really good stories to start off with, in terms of entertainment value, but one addresses an objective that is especially important for your group while the other one doesn’t.

So for instance*, you might be speaking to a skeptical audience who doesn’t think the issue you’re going to talk about is important. You will want to pick a story that addresses the price they are  paying for  NOT addressing the issue and also subtly communicates your expert status. If you were speaking to a group who already believes in the importance of the issue, you might choose a story that offers hope.

Opening Story Objectives

  1. Bond—“He understands me.” and/or “He doesn’t think he’s better than me.”
  2. Credibility–“She knows what she’s talking about.”
  3. Pain— “Man…I would love to not feel that way anymore.”
  4. Clarity— “OK, got it! This is what she’s going to talk about.”
  5. Cognitive Dissonance— “Wow, I never realized I might be paying a price for…”
  6. Promise—“That would be awesome if that could happen for me.”
  7. Hope— “Maybe this will be the answer I’ve been looking for.”
  8. Fascination— “Wow…I never thought about it in that way.”
  9. Enchantment– “How amusing.” and/or “What a unique way of starting off a talk.”
  10. Positive Anticipation— “This is going to be fun, different than the same ole’ same ole’.”


* Note: “So for instance…” is one of the most powerful three words in teaching. This phrase helps you take a conceptual idea–like the paragraph that starts with “When choosing an opening story…”–and make it more understandable by providing a concrete example. As the brothers Heath write in Made to Stick, one of the most important ways to make your ideas “Sticky” is to make  your ideas concrete through examples, analogies, and stories that illustrate your concept.



In this video, I am speaking to an ASTD chapter on storytelling and…surprise, surprise…thought it would be a good idea to open up with a story.

Notice the choice of story (and story within a story) and see how many things you notice in terms of why I started with this story, as well as why I started off with the story within the story at the event I referred to…in the story.


In the next post, I’ll play the next part of the seminar where we process this opening story (within a story).

Please feel free to post your observations (and questions) in the Comments Below

To see what the audience picked up on and hear my commentary, go to Starting Off With a Story – Part II.

Also…if you haven’t seen the Add Powerful Storytelling to Your Training webinar recording, click here

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