Captivating Your Audience Through Anecdotes

Let’s start with two examples:

“In 2011, Silph Co. experienced a 20 percent decline in profits. In 2012, however, we increased the size of our sales staff by 10 percent. MegaCorp saw record profits that year.”


“Two years ago, back in 2011, we here at Silph Co. experienced an awful period financially. Our business, which recorded 20% less in revenues than the year before, was shrinking, and people thought we were fading away. We knew we had to make a big change, and that meant taking a risk, but rather than accepting our fate, we decided to invest in ourselves and expand our company. We increased our already massive sales team by 10 percent, and because of their reinvigorated hard work, I’m proud to say that we saw record profits that year.”



Both of these examples contain roughly the same information, but one is presented as a personal experience, where the other is merely reporting the facts. No matter the circumstance of your presentation, you want your audience to feel connected to you.

Your presentation–or at least the parts of it that you want to be hammered home with your audience–will pack the strongest punch if presented as a relatable narrative. This will not only allow those you’re audience to sympathize with you, from a scientific standpoint, it will help them retain information better.

Studies show that when information is presented in a dry fashion, the audience will attempt to compile what you’re saying as a mental list, which goes to the frontal lobe, which is reserved for short term memory, and therefore not much of what you’re saying will stay in their heads for very long.

By presenting information with an emotional context, you can ensure the information is engrained in the area of the brain storing long-term memory.

By presenting information with an emotional context, you can ensure the information is engrained in the area of the brain storing long-term memory.

However, if you present the information as a story, and give it an emotional, personal context, then you get to skip right past your audience’s frontal lobes and take the fast train to their hippocampus and amygdala, where information and emotions can be processed together and engrained much more effectively in one’s long-term memory. Here it earns its place among easily retained memories such as our favorite movies and books we effortlessly quote.

The key here is to engage your audience’s imagination. Especially if you’re selling your business or product through your presentation, tell a story that paints a picture of why your audience should care about it.

Think about your presentation like a traditional story arc: Your audience is the protagonist, their conflict is the problem that your product or business identifies, and the story’s climax, your audience’s resolution, is your product, your idea that will solve the problem you’ve identified.

Give your presentation in an emotionally captivating manner, and it will ensure that you make a lasting impression on all those listening.