How to find stories for your presentations

Bored by your presentation?

In case you don’t know, I’ve got a new conference presentation called “StoryMaking“, which is about using stories in everything from marketing to motivation. One of the most common questions that floats around about using stories is how to find them.

Oh, nothing interesting ever happens to me“.


It’s particularly tosh ‘cos big exciting things aren’t necessarily (or even probably) the best things for your audience to identify with. Totally ordinary things that catch your eye work very well. To show how easy it is, I set myself a challenge on a train journey from Newcastle heading south to London, travelling standard class.

It’s about as “everyday” an event as you can hope to find. What follows is a list of the notes I made as I sat there. I’ve edited them only a tiny bit to make them grammatically readable – nothing fancy – so think of them as what they are… something caught in note form!

  • Everything is powered (phone, watch, kindle, headphones) because of five minutes spent yesterday – speaks to the power of preparation. (Five minutes to day to make futureSimon’s job easier tomorrow?)
  • I showed my ticket to the inspector. Girl beside me showed her ticket and was asked for her railcard. I hadn’t been. Why? Because I’m male? Grey haired? – speaks to how we treat people based on impressions
  • Man at Durham station had open leather sandals and one foot had a sock on – people are odd; or he’d got an injury; or his self confidence
  • In an online add, a speaking trainer using Glossophobia as a marketing tool citing over 70% of people as sufferers. At that point it’s not a phobia, it’s natural. Also the 70% figure is made up – speaks to people not checking their sources; confirmation bias; marketers being evil bastards who’ll say anything.
  • Gov’t talking about removing WiFi from trains because it’s expensive and doesn’t work well (mine is painfully slow to upload!). People I know use a train to work on and removing WiFi would reduce the point of the train. Small minded – alternative is to make the damned WiFi work! Our Euro-neighbours have flawless Wi-Fi with similar resource options?
  • Passing the labs of an (very) old client of mine – have kept a weak contact ever since. They’re not likely to employ me again ever, but have provided support for a current client by pointing me at materials I otherwise couldn’t easily find. Speaks to the power of networking; power of soft links; value of soft information.
  • Safety and security announcement on the train is a recording. It’s the same as it’s always been and no one hears it any more. No one. Speaks to the need for variety. Repetition is white noise. On the other hand, the Guard has a voice with a tone that welders could use to bond sheet steel for battleships. She gets noticed every time. Every damned time. I may commit murder by York.

By this time I’m just south of Darlington

  • Girl in a white floral/lace dress with an (obviously) red thong under it on the platform. Speaks to her confidence (or I Don’t Care-Ness). Big space around her as people made a point of not looking too hard or standing too close for fear of judgment. They’re all carefully not looking at her for fear of being judged. Does she know and not care? Or does she not know? Should someone mention it to her? If so, who? Not a sixty year old man… speaks to how we’re (over-) cautious about interacting with strangers. Which bits of that good? Which bits bad? Different in London to Newcastle! 🙂

It’s not so hard to find the mini-stories if we’re looking. I’m not pretending these stories are fully crafted: after all these are just the notes I took so I didn’t forget them. Want do get your own library of ministories? Or need a speaker to help you really get to grips with using marketing for everything from marketing to motivation?

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