Why Stories matter and why you need them in your speech.

“If you don’t know the trees you may be lost in the forest, but if you don’t know the stories you may be lost in life.” – Siberian Elder

Every speech needs a  story.

Every tip I can give about speech writing fails in comparison to this one. If you follow this one tip, you won’t even need most of the other ones.

Every speech needs a story. Ideally, every speech needs three.

Here a few, short reasons why…


Stories make people real

“Real isn’t how you are made… It’s a thing that happens to you.”
– Margery Williams

Pinocchio by Michiel Jelijs. Almoys a real boy. Shared under Creative Commons

Here are a few facts about me.

  • I am a speech writer.
  • I am a Kent lad living in Bristol
  • I am 30
  • I am a computer science graduate.

And now, here’s a story about me

When I went to university I studied computer science. I hated it! it was dull and full of facts that didn’t interest me. I loved coding but didn’t care how a microchip or a hard drive worked. I just wanted to code. Mostly, I wanted to build a website to write on.

For years I had taught myself web design, staying up until the early hours of the morning to learn CSS, ASP and Javascript. My plan was to build a blog before blogs existed.  I was a coder for one reason only: it gave me a reason to write.

Then, when I was 19, I discovered Blogger, a website that did everything I had intended my own website to do. On that day I stopped coding. I simply didn’t need to anymore.

I was less than one month into my bachelors’ degree. It was not the best time to lose my interest in Computing.

When I gave you the facts of my life you probably skimmed over them, and created the most rudimentary image in your mind.

When I told you the story you became me. You sat up with me learning code and felt my boredom during university lectures. You got into my world and saw it through my eyes.

Facts give you the route, but stories take you on the journey.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
–  Harper Lee


Stories are sticky

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.”
– Robert McKee

The tortoise and the hare

“There once was a speedy Hare who bragged about how fast he could run.”

I don’t need to tell you the rest, you know it. Aesop’s fables are told to every child. And every child remembers them.

People are only 5% likely to remember a fact but 60% likely to remember a story. The immersive experience of storytelling locks the details into our brains.

Stories are easy for humans to digest, and as such they become part of us.

“If you tell me, it’s an essay. If you show me, it’s a story.”
– Barbera Greene


Stories are designed to be shared

“People are hungry for stories. It’s part of our very being. Storytelling is a form of history, of immortality too. It goes from one generation to another.” -Studs Terkel

The Storyteller (Eugene, Oregon)

The Storyteller (Eugene, Oregon)

Humans are storytellers. We crave stories. It’s the reason that we can re-watch the same films over and over, and discuss last nights soap operas over the water cooler several times over.

Tell a fact and people forget it. Tell a story and people pass it on.


Humans are stories.

“The universe is made of stories, not atoms.” – Muriel Rukeyser

Woman kissing baby on the cheek. A human storyHumans and stories are one and the same thing. Long before writing we told stories. Stories create our history and re-write our lives, and when we are gone we too will become stories. We are made not of skin and bone but of the stories that people tell of us.

Adding a story to your speech makes it human.


Every speech needs a story

An audience will never remember the words you say. But when you tell a story they will remember the images the story created in their mind and the way it felt in their heart.

Stories connect with people in a way that nothing else does, and they stay in the consciousness longer than any fact ever can. They teach and create us, mould us, guide us.They are us.

Put a story in your next speech. It it is the most important tip I will ever give you. And it almost always guarantees that the story of your speech will have a happy ending.

”In the end all we have are stories” – Roger C. Shank


Image details
Pinocchio by Michiel Jelijs – shared under Creative Commons
Tortoise and hare – From Childhood’s Favorites and Fairy Stories, by Various. Project Gutenberg etext 19993
The StoryTeller – By Visitor7 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
D. Sharon Pruitt from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, USA – Free Sweet Baby Kisses Family Love Creative Commons.

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