spice up your stories during virtual presentations

Electrify Your Stories When Presenting Virtually

Whether you’re a professional speaker, salesperson, or team leader, the ability to keep your audience engaged in virtual environments is now more important than ever. 

Screen fatigue and distraction are new realties in an online world, which means you need to adjust your presentation style. Stories have always been the best way to engage and influence an audience, but how can you optimize your storytelling for a virtual meeting? 

Here are five key tips:  

1. Keep it Short

As a keynote speaker and professional storyteller, some of my on-stage stories can last for 15 minutes or more. I love using longer stories to add drama, humour, and entertainment value to my message. However, in a virtual environment, keeping audience attention becomes a challenge. Not only are people likely to be more distracted than they would be in person, but the presenter’s energy can also be affected due to the lack of in-person engagement.

Keeping your key stories to about five minutes or under will speed up the pace of your presentation and ensure that your energy remains high.

2. Have a Clear Message 

As a presenter, you should be telling stories that are both engaging and purposeful. After all, you want your audience to learn, do, or feel something that inspires action. Ensuring your story has a clear and powerful message not only keeps your audience focused, but also makes them feel that they are getting value for their time.

3. Make Your Story Easy to Follow

The most powerful stories tend to follow a typical story arc where you: 

  • Introduce the main character and describe what they want.  
  • Then introduce a problem that keeps them from obtaining it. 
  • Eventually, the character hits a turning point. They learn something, and as a result, their fortunes start to rise. 
  • The story typically ends with the character transformed, having overcome their obstacles because of what they’ve learned. 

By following this clear and simple story path, your message will be easily understood by your audience, despite any distractions around them.

4. Use Visuals

Stories help you connect with your audience on both a rational and emotional level. That’s why when telling a story in person, you generally want all of the visual attention on yourself and NOT on a facts-based slide deck. When the focus is on you and the story you’re telling, there is shared energy between presenter and audience. 

Unfortunately, a virtual environment can drain that energy. Each audience member is sealed in their own space, making it difficult to feel the excitement or hear the laughter of others.  

By using photos to illustrate the emotional points of your story – such as tension, humour, or surprise – you can make it easier for people to follow not only the logic of your narrative but also the feelings that come with it. 

If you follow these 6 simple storytelling steps, you’ll be able to engage and connect to your virtual audience in a way that will keep their interest high, while inspiring them into action!

5. Stand

The energy you convey while telling your story is extremely important. During my days in television news, we recognized that most news anchors were much more animated and interesting when they presented their content standing up than they did when sitting at a desk. 

By following these six simple storytelling steps, you’ll be able to engage and connect to your virtual audience in a way that will keep their interest high, while inspiring them into action!

If you’re looking to improve your virtual presentation why not contact me for a free 20-minute session to see how I can help

Add Suspense to Your Stories to Grab Attention Hitchcock-Style

If you’re looking to get your audience’s attention, one of the best ways to do it is to add suspense to your story.

Master Storyteller Jason Reid looks at Alfred Hitchcock
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Many people confuse the idea suspense with surprise. Here’s the difference between the two, as well as the biggest tip on how to add suspense to your story.

Suspense vs. Surprise

Surprise is when something dramatic happens in your story without warning. Not only is the audience surprised but the character in the story is surprised at the same time. 

Let’s contrast this with the idea of suspense. In suspense, you let the audience know of a danger that character IN the story doesn’t realize yet.  This makes every small moment in that scene dramatic, because the audience knows that the stakes are high – and THIS GRABS PEOPLE’S ATTENTION.

So let me give you an example from film and then talk about how you could use this yourself if you’re telling a story from a stage or just to a friend.

How Alfred Hitchcock built suspense

The original master of suspense in modern film is Alfred Hitchcock. In a famous early film, called Sabotage, he had a scene where a boy takes a package on a bus. No one in the scene realized that IN that package is a bomb. 

So Hitchcock could have simply shown the bomb blow up, which would have surprised us just as much as the characters. But instead, he lets the audience know about the bomb. That makes the next five minutes in the scene full of drama. Every mundane moment is drawn out and heightened, pulling every single audience member into the story so that we’re all paying attention when the bomb actually goes off. 

In this case, suspense is much more effective than surprise.

So how can you use suspense when you’re telling your story?

Let’s say you’re telling a story about being in line for a show on a cold night when someone suddenly butts in line in front of you. Words are exchanged, tension rises, maybe tempers start to get hot. And imagine that after this exchange, someone comes up up to you and tells you the person you were arguing with is a former Mixed Martial Arts Champion with a reputation for assaulting strangers. 

Whew. That’s quite the story, especially this surprise at the end.But imagine how much better it would be if you let your audience KNOW this crucial piece of information at the BEGINNING of the story – even when you’re still unaware of it. 

Every small event in that scene will be heightened in the audiences mind because THEY’RE aware of a danger that you’re not.

How to introduce suspense

So how do you do it? It’s simple. You could say something like.  “It’s a freezing night and suddenly this little guy butts in front of me. Now I’m not in the mood to take any rudeness from anyone. So I’m going to tell this guy off. What I don’t realize is this seemingly harmless little guy is actually a champion MMA fighter with a violent temper and reputation for assault.”

Now when you set up a scene like THAT. Your audience is going to lean in and magnify every detail. And getting your audience’s attention is the key to delivering your message.  

So the next time you tell YOUR story, think about where YOU can add suspense. 

For more storytelling tips you can subscribe to my Youtube channel. You can also download my professional storytelling tool and other resources here

What All Storytellers Can Learn From George Lucas

Today I want to look at what speakers and storytellers  can learn from filmmaker George Lucas of Star Wars fame.

Now Lucas is a millionaire hundreds of times over and this is largely due to his success with the Star Wars Franchise.

Now the stories within the Star Wars franchise aren’t all that great. But today I want to talk about the one thing that made the franchise extremely successful and something we can learn when we tell our own stories.

So what made Star Wars a hit.  It started in the middle. 

Now before I go on, let’s look at a basic story arc. 

Jason Reid's Story Arc Structure

The challenge is, sometimes if you have a long or complicated story, the setup can be a little long and boring, so that’s why many storytellers will start in the middle where the action is, and eventually go back in time either all at once or little by little and clue you in as to what set up all this action.

So here’s what Lucas did, He started with Episode IV. Which seems crazy. Who wants to come into a movie not having seen the first third? Well it turns everyone did. As a result, we started with a space battle and not two hours of talk about trade embargos. pod races or microscopic parasites that control the universe. 

By starting in the middle where the real action was he grabbed people’s attention. And luckily he kept it for the second move that’s often regarded as the best one of the series. The Empire Strikes Back. This is the MIDDLE episode of the MIDDLE series. 

When it comes to longer stories middle’s are where the action is, middle’s grab people. If you’re telling a longer story don’t forget to savour that middle, and where you can START WITH IT. 

For more storytelling tips, go to my website and pick up my professional storytellers tool. Also subscribe to my channel. 

Storytelling and the Brain – Video

Stories can help you sell your idea more effectively because they engage your listener’s emotions and activate the sensory centers of the brain.

Why are stories a great way to sell products, services or even ideas?  Well partially it’s because of storytelling’s impact on the brain.

Storytelling is extremely old. In fact it even predates language itself. Yes, before we could even speak – we were telling stories.

We actually understand and remember stories much better than any other form of communication. That’s why we need to use stories if we want to influence others.

Stories are better than PowerPoint

Powerpoint won’t actually kill your audience, but relying on it too much can kill your chances.  To keep people’s attention you need to engage more parts of their brain.

Let’s imagine you’re doing a sales presentation and you’re using facts and graphs and charts. You’ve engaged the logic centers of their brain, and while it’s good you’re engaging something, it’s often not enough to get their attention.

How to gain real attention during your presentation

Now instead, let’s imagine you’re telling them a story.  A story about a real live human being with thoughts, and dreams, and emotions.  

Maybe during the course of the story you talk about how things looked, or sounded, or even smelled! Well now you’ve hit the jackpot. The entire brain is lit up. Why? Because when we hear a great story, our brains experience it as if it were real life. It’s really a virtual reality – meaning all those brain centers for sight, sound, touch and smell suddenly get activated.

The more parts of the brain you activate, the more people will pay attention – and the more chance YOU have to make your sale.

But there’s one more thing you need to know. Remember I talked about human beings and emotions being important to your story? They are. People relate to the struggles of others, and buying ANYTHING, even if it’s an idea, is very much an emotional decision.  That’s why stories should act as the emotional component of your sales presentation.

So to sum up, by using stories to activate people’s senses, you get their attention. Then, you stimulate their emotions, as well as their logical minds, so that they will take action.


There’s no better way to learn than stories. Why not book Jason to engage your audience with stories that are entertaining, powerful and insightful learning tools? Check out Jason’s programs to find out how your audience can become better at influence, sales, leadership or general communication.

Hire Jason Reid on eSpeakers Marketplace

The Key to A Great Story is in the Details.

Whether you’re speaking to sell, telling a client story, or doing a keynote presentation – the key to making a good story great is in the details.

Here’s why. Good stories are a form of virtual reality. They allow your audience to step into the main character and feel what she feels. Anyone who has watched a great movie or TV show, or read a great book knows how captivating being immersed in a story can be.

That’s why being able to set a scene is really important, especially when your story involves a specific time and place.  One of the key principles of storytelling is you want to show, not tell. And details help you to do that.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Let’s say you were telling a dramatic true-life story about your relationship with your parents. Many people would write something like:  When my dad yelled at me like that I felt sad.

This is a classic example of telling. Instead, let’s look at how you could show that scene instead.

I turned to leave and my dad screamed,  “You’ll always be a loser!” By the time I reached my car, tears were running down my face.

Can you see how showing the scene has much more impact?

Be selective and don’t overdo it.

Now you don’t have to write a novel here. One of the things I learned when I was screen writing is that you don’t need a lot of words to set a scene.

If you do your job right, you can immediately set the time, place, tone, and feeling in just a few sentences. Here’s an example from a story that I share when I do one of my inspirational keynotes on living with chronic illness.

“It’s the evening of Christmas 1986. Most people are with their families and enjoying their Turkey dinner with cranberry sauce, and maybe even a bit of pumpkin pie. But for one young man the experience is quite different. He’s sick and alone in a small hospital room. And he’s scared because he’s not sure what’s wrong with him – and neither do the doctors. They don’t realize yet that he has a perforated intestine and that his body is a time bomb just waiting to go off.”

Now that’s only 30 seconds long, but I’ve given you the important information and set the scene. You’ll also notice that I use the present tense, (is instead of was). This makes the story feel both more real and more urgent.

Starting a story off this way is even more important if it’s at the beginning of your talk. Remember, you need to grab people’s attention right away or you may lose them.

Spice up Your Story with Time Travel


Typically, we tend to tell stories in chronological order. “First this happened, then this happened and then this other thing happened.”

What great storytellers often do is break that time barrier.

They’ll start with the most exciting or emotionally engaging scene they can. Then after they play that out, they flash back in time to the beginning of the story and fill the listener in on what led up to that point.

Starting in the middle of the story has a couple of advantages

If you start with the most dramatic part of your story, you can often grab your audience and really get them emotionally invested in the characters right off the bat. The second advantage is that you’re giving the audience a bit of variety. If you’re doing a long talk, or if you’re one of a number of speakers that day, people are probably going to hear more than one story from the stage. So if you can change up how you tell the story it keeps you from sounding just like everyone else.

Starting a story from the middle and doing the time travel routine is like adding a hot spice to a meal – use it sparingly.  If you start telling all of your stories this way the novelty will wear off quickly and your talk will be harder for the audience to follow.

Create Tension for Better Stories

The lifeblood of any great story is tension.

If you recounted a time where you woke up and everything was lovely, every person got along, and no problems presented themselves, it wouldn’t really be much of a story.

Of course the story doesn’t have to be negative to be effective. For instance,  you could tell a story about winning the lottery, but you’d still need to have some tension to make it work – even if that tension is internal. Let’s look at this example:


“As I read the winning number in the newspaper I realized I’d won the 2 million dollars that would pay for my mother’s open heart surgery. But the joy in my heart was tempered by a lingering thought. My divorce papers hadn’t been finalized. Was there any way I could keep my abusive husband from finding out about the win?”

 
That’s a good news story, but there’s a heck of a lot of tension set up there. There is a huge obstacle that still needs to be resolved.  If you heard a speaker start that story, wouldn’t you want to hear the end?

WHAT IS TENSION IN A STORY AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

The storyteller who understood tension the best was filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. He explained that tension is not a bomb exploding on a bus. Tension is the audience knowing the bomb is on the bus and not knowing exactly what will happen.

When you create a lot of tension in your story, your audience yearns for a release. Much like sex, the more you can prolong and build that tension, the greater and more satisfying the release will likely be.

Some speakers use tension as a way to keep the audience’s attention throughout their presentation. They begin their talk by setting up a story with a lot of tension and stop before the climax . This is called a cliffhanger. The speaker then leaves the story unresolved while they talk about something else. They will often refer back to the tense story throughout the talk with a promise to finish it. Then, at the end of the talk, they provide the climax which – if done well – leaves the audience satisfied and stimulated.

WHY YOUR STORY NEEDS A SATISFYING FINISH

Here’s the thing you need to keep in mind when building stories with a high amount of tension: You need the ending to be satisfying.


The story’s ending has to be dramatic or novel enough to have made the tension worthwhile It also means you aren’t holding back a key piece of information that factors into the resolution of the story.

If, in the lottery story, the heroine loses the two million dollars to her abusive husband, only to be given two million dollars from a rich aunt the audience never knew she had – you can be sure your listeners will feel cheated. They’ll also feel cheated if the mother ends up not needing the operation at all.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

One last thing to keep in mind… If the purpose of your talk is something more than simply entertainment – if you’re looking to inspire, or make a point, or connect to a theme – then that story has to serve a purpose. There has to be an obvious point to the story that connects it directly with the content in your talk.  If you can’t do that, maybe you should leave that story for your next novel or screenplay.