The P.O.W.E.R. of Story

How can the Power of Story bring your online videos to life? What is it about a story that engages your audience, and how do you use that power in your presentations? This Show-N-Tell will help you harness the Power of Story to make your content more memorable and your delivery more effective. Now, we’re not talking about becoming a professional screenwriter. But having a basic understanding of the Power of Story will have a huge effect on how your deliver your content.


You’ve been using the power of story your entire life and may not have even realized it. As children we were great story tellers. Our imaginations ran wild and we rarely censored ourselves. We laughed a lot, and even cried a little. As adults we see the world differently. We tend to focus on just the facts. Yes, the facts are important, and without any facts or statistics there would probably be no need for a presentation. But the delivery of those facts must be emotional. Anyone can read the facts off a print-out, or from a computer screen. An effective presentation, or online video, must engage the audience and connect with them emotionally.

Stories have been used across every culture in order to entertain, educate, and socialize. From Cavemen drawing on walls, to Marketers pitching a new product — how and why we tell stories has grown and evolved over centuries, but the basic elements of a good story remain the same and conveniently fit into an acronym:

P eople.

O bjective.

W ild Card.

E ffort.

R esult.

As we work through this acronym, take a minute to write down how each element relates to your project, whether it’s a new online video post or a seminar in front of 2000 people.

The most important element is People. As human beings we love stories. We connect to the human aspect, or the humanity of the story. We don’t connect to data or bullet-points. In order to make your data mean something, make it human. Your audience doesn’t want to know just facts and figures, but how those facts and figures will affect them. If you’re selling baby-care products, don’t just point out the new wings on the diaper, tell the parents how much more comfortable their baby will be, thanks to those new wings. This video isn’t just a lecture, explaining the basic elements of story, it’s teaching you how you can use this knowledge to achieve a goal.

Which brings us to the second element: Objective. Now that we have a personal element, we need to figure out what that person wants. What is the final goal? Is your goal to increase sales? Is your objective to teach someone how to upload a video? It may seem obviously simple, but by stating it clearly and directly, it provides a destination and purpose to your presentation.

If all we had were People and Objective, the world would be a pretty boring place. What makes a story interesting is the conflict, the struggle, or the Wild Card. The Wild Card is the obstacle standing between the person and the objective. If your goal is to increase traffic to your website, what is it that’s preventing you from achieving that? Is poor content driving people away? Is it poor delivery of that content, putting your audience to sleep? More likely it’s a lack of knowledge on how to attract more viewers.

Not to fear. Dreams do come true! Not without some Effort, though. The Effort is the action taken to overcome the Wild Card. How do you remove that obstacle standing in the way between you and your goal? Do you take a course on how to increase traffic and apply what you learn? Or, you may offer something for free in order to increase value for your viewers. Maybe it’s simply looking at a situation from a different perspective, producing a different result.

The Result may not always be what we expect, but there’s always a conclusion. Once you’ve recognized the result, you can choose to accept it and move on, or repeat the process and try again. In movies and TV shows, this cycle repeats over and over again, with the protagonist making an effort, but not getting the result hoped for, or reaching the objective. He has to keep trying different tactics to reach the objective, which is the hoped for result.

By incorporating these basic elements into your online video, your audience will remain engaged in what you have to say. They’ll remember the message of your story long after they forget the numbers in your bullet-points.

So, now you know the basic elements of a good story, but when do you use it? Always. Every presentation you give, every video you upload should include these 5 elements. Give your audience something to connect to, rather than boring them with bullet-points. Before you know it they will be staying on your website longer, asking more questions, getting more involved.

Ira Glass, famed host of NPR’s This American Life, talks about the power of story in Garr Reynold’s The Naked Presenter:

“No matter how boring the material is, if it is in story form…there is suspense in it, it feels like something’s going to happen. The reason why is because literally, it’s a sequence of events…you can feel through its form [that it’s] inherently like being on a train that has a destination…and that you’re going to find something…”

Now we encourage you to go find something. Take the lesson above and apply it to your next video or presentation. After you’ve done that, be sure to Show-N-Tell.us all about it in the comments below!