Tips for Telling an Effective Story

Kindra Hall

Award-winning columnist, author and national champion speaker Kindra Hall presented at the 2017 Toastmasters International Convention, where she outlined strategies for telling an effective story. Here are four storytelling tips from her presentation entitled “The Irresistible Power of Strategic Storytelling”:

1. Understand why storytelling works

It’s no secret that humans are attracted to stories—but why? “The storytelling process is co-creative,” Hall explained during her presentation, referring to how people subconsciously insert their own experiences and memories into stories they hear to fill in the details in their mind. There is also a measurable effect storytelling has on our bodies. When we experience a story, our brains release cortisol (which increases our ability to pay attention) and oxytocin (which boosts our ability to feel emotion and empathy). It’s as though our ability to engage with stories is programmed into us.

2. Defining a story

But what exactly is a story? It’s important to know what a story is and what a story is not. A story is not simply well-organized information. “How many of you have ever felt the oxytocin flowing after looking at a presentation slide?” Hall quipped before going on to say that a story should be about a specific moment, where something meaningful happens. Stories should contain an emotional component along with information, and a story must always feature characters to care about, and something should be at stake for those characters.

3. Apply information to real-life situations

Strategic storytelling exists so we can communicate a message more effectively than simply relaying information. By wrapping your message inside a story with real-life scenarios your audience can relate to, it not only makes your story more memorable, but it also allows the audience to connect with you and the information you’re trying to communicate in a more meaningful way.

4. Don’t forget to tell your story

It might sound hard to believe, but one of the biggest storytelling mistakes people make is not telling their story at all. “We allude to the story,” Hall warned, “but we don’t actually tell it.” Don’t let this happen to you! Once you’ve figured out the story you want to tell, use the above tips and then share it with your audience. As Hall said, “it is not the magnitude of the stories you tell,” but rather “the decision to tell them, and to tell them well,” that matters.

Related Resources
Emotion Reigns


Leading with the Brain in Mind

Five unexpected lessons about leadership and the brain

Top 5 Toastmasters Club Myths

Leadership expert Sandra McDowell, speaker at the 2017 Toastmasters International Convention and author of Your Mother Was Right: 15 Unexpected Lessons About Leadership and the Brain, shows how neuroscience provides new insights into human nature and behavior. Neuroleadership, a new and developing discipline, helps explain why leadership efforts and organizational change initiatives are unsuccessful. Here are five insights from her book (all based on motherly advice) that can help you support effective leadership and sustainable change:

1. Go To Bed

According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, more than 30% of the population is sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation impacts mood and can create health problems such as stroke, diabetes and heart disease. Getting a good night’s sleep makes a big difference in your personal well-being and your cognitive performance.

2. You Are What You Eat

Does your diet impact your mood and the way you act personally and professionally? For most of us, when we’re hungry, we get grumpy or angry. Although it’s common sense to eat when we’re hungry, it is easy to fall victim to that “one-more-thing-to-do” before we eat trap. This doesn’t bode well for those we lead.

3. Count To 10

Overreacting in the workplace (often due to sleep deprivation and a poor diet) is hard on the reputation and can be tough to overcome — especially if you’re a leader. Maintaining an environment free from perceived threats will improve the performance of those you lead. When you count to 10 before reacting to a stimulus that is about to set you off, it allows your thinking brain to process so that you can respond rationally rather than emotionally.

4. Pay Attention

Mindfulness, also known as meditation, is good for your health. Research has shown that mindfulness training reduces stress hormones in the body, boosts immunity and increases focus. Research has also shown that a distracted state of mind is often more anxious, stressed and depressed — which can lead to decreased engagement and performance.

5. You Can’t Do Two Things At Once

Frequent multitasking has been linked with memory impairment, increased stress levels and inability to focus on important or complicated tasks. Just as you need to be conscious of your own attempts of multitasking, as a leader you need to be conscious of the environment in which you and your team members work. It’s your responsibility as a leader to create a culture that fosters and supports focus.

Excerpted fromYour Mother Was Right: 15 Unexpected Lessons About Leadership and the Brain, by Sandra McDowell.

Free Webinar: Women in Leadership

Check out this free resource where they’ll discuss how to empower the women in District 47 to lead, compete and become better Toastmasters and leaders.

The world needs more leaders. Leaders head families, coach teams, run businesses and mentor others. These leaders must not only accomplish goals, they must communicate well with others.

By regularly giving speeches, gaining feedback, practicing leading teams and guiding others to achieve their goals in a supportive atmosphere, leaders emerge from the Toastmasters program.

Webinar Details:

When: March 8, 2018
Time: 8:30-9:30 pm

Click Here to Join Meeting 

February is American Heart Month: Why You Should Care

Yesterday, my 50-year-old friend was taken to the hospital because she thought she had food poisoning. She died last night of a heart attack.

Last Thursday, member and VP Membership, Sharon Patish, gave a speech about her own experience with heart disease. So I thought I would share some of that information* in the hopes that more people, especially women, will become educated and empowered to help identify the signs and prevent any more senseless tragedies.

Heart Disease Kills More Women Than all Cancers Combined

It is the leading cause of death in women – 1 in 4 will die from heart disease.

Heart Attack Warning Signs

Be aware that warning signs for women may differ than those for men. Women tend to experience a greater number of symptoms than men, including shortness of breath, swelling around the ankles, and difficulty exercising. Only half of women who have heart attacks experience chest pain – the #1 sign for men. 

  • Chest discomfort, pain, squeezing, burning or mile to severe pressure in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes or comes and goes
  • Upper body discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, nausea and vomiting, cold sweats
  • Feelings of anxiety, fatigue or weakness – unexplained or on exertion

Time is of the Essence! What to Do if You Experience Any Signs

  • Call 911 within 5 minutes of the start of symptoms
    • Tell the operator you think you are having a heart attack
    • Even if your symptoms stop completely in less than 5 minutes, call your doctor
  • Do NOT drive yourself or let family/friends drive you to the hospital. Emergency personnel can begin treating you in the ambulance
  • Chew and swallow one regular full-strength aspirin with water as soon as possible to prevent blood clotting
  • At the hospital, make it clear that you are having a heart attack. Ask for a complete cardiac evaluation, including an electrocardiogram (EKG) and a cardiac enzyme blood test.
    • If you are not receiving prompt evaluation, tell them again that you are experiencing heart attack symptoms.

Identify & Reduce Your Risk

You are not powerless. Although there are some risk factors that you cannot control, such as age, gender, race/ethnicity, and family history, there are many other things you can do to reduce your chances of developing heart disease.

Risks include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated bad cholesterol (LDL)
  • Diabetes
  • Poor diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoking

What You Can Do To Reduce Your Risk:

  • Control your blood pressure
  • Keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels under control
  • Stay at a healthy weight
  • Eat a healthy diet
  •  Get regular exercise
  • Limit alcohol
  • Don’t smoke
  • Manage stress
    • Some ways to help manage your stress include exercise, listening to music, focusing on something calm or peaceful, and meditating
  • Manage diabetes
  • Get enough sleep
    • At least 7-9 hours
    • Lack of sleep raises your risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes

What Next?

If you don’t currently suffer from heart disease, following the tips above will help keep your heart healthy. If you have been diagnosed with heart disease, you are not alone. There are many organizations that help provide social and emotional support, which can help lower stress levels, anxiety and depression, and allow you to become more engaged in your health care.


*The information provided above was taken from literature distributed by Women Heart, the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, and should be used for educational purposes only. Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

About Women Heart

The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) patient advocacy organization with thousands of members nationwide, including women heart patients and their families, health care providers, advocates and consumers committed to helping women live longer, healthier lives. WomenHeart supports, educates and advocates on behalf of the 43 million American women living with, or at risk of heart disease.