The Art of Storytelling

April 1, 2021

Three hundred, sixty-six days of surreal, insane, terrible and divisive moments. That is one phrase to describe the year 2020. For many, this description may be the most accurate; however, others will describe it differently... Twelve months of never-before seen opportunities, challenges to make us stronger and chances to rediscover what is most important in our lives.  While both ways may accurately describe the past year, one tells a much more positive story.

Whether we are competing, fundraising, socializing, serving or leading we are constantly telling a story—our DECA story. We are telling the story of why a new student should join DECA. We are telling the story of why a judge should buy into our solution above all others. We are telling the story of why community members and professionals should support the mission of DECA. So, why not make your story the best it can be?!

Check out these seven tips to unlock the power of effective storytelling.

1. Choose a Clear and Central Message: Whenever we have a role-play, prepared presentation, interview or chapter meeting, we must provide our audience with a clear and concise message. You can do this by creating a detailed outline, implementing a slide deck or mapping out key takeaways. I love using the one-sentence summary technique: think about your presentation and write down your central theme or message in one sentence.

2. Embrace Conflict: In almost every story, a hero overcomes conflict. In business stories or DECA competitions, this same principle applies. When we craft a story, we are clearly defining and then solving a problem. We provide a new and innovative solution for our customers, persuade new members to join our chapter, develop a long-term competitive advantage for our company or solve a critical business problem for our judge.

3. Have a Clear Structure: Have you ever read a classmate’s essay and you had no idea what it was trying to say? Or listened to a business presentation where you did not understand the product or service? Having a clear structure is critical to telling a compelling story. For competition, try to use the performance indicators as a guide. In a business presentation, focus on the most important information to your audience—the introduction, market research, product or service, timeline/implementation plan, budget and conclusion.

4. Mine Your Personal Experiences: While you might not always be the main character, the best stories are often the ones that only you can tell. Use your knowledge and personal experiences to help bring your story to life. Not only will your story be more relatable, but you will also increase your credibility.

5. Engage Your Audience: The best stories are interactive and engaging. They are the ones that keep you on the edge of your seat, waiting to hear what happens next. Try implementing this same style of storytelling when delivering a presentation. Engage your audience by involving them in the story, adding some dramatic flair or implementing an activity.

6. Observe Good Storytellers: Your personal stories will always be unique to you, but there’s no better way to learn how to craft and deliver a narrative than by observing storytellers you admire. Talk to your association officers, executive team or past competitive event champions to learn how to tell stories. You can also gain insights from watching politicians, celebrities or business leaders.

7. Narrow the Scope: When telling a story to a boss, judge or potential DECA member, it can be challenging to know what elements to include. It may be a struggle to not over complicate or provide wasteful details. Try to focus only on the key elements that you need to communicate to be successful. Think “quality over quantity.”


Now that you know the basics of storytelling, you’re ready to capture your audience’s attention and leave a lasting impression. 

Use these tips to integrate stories into your next presentation and take your delivery to the next level!

1. Prepare to Win: When it comes to presentations, you can never be over-prepared. Make sure you are an expert on your subject and anticipate possible questions so that you can deliver the right message to your target audience effectively.

2. Design Correctly: To create a competitive advantage, make sure your slides are illustrated and visually stand out. It is important to do this without overwhelming your audience or adding unnecessary graphics.

3. Practice to Perfection: Practice, practice, practice! Whether in your career, classroom presentations or competition, there will be a time limit. Make sure you are well-rehearsed so your points land perfectly and concisely with your audience.

4. Deliver with Poise: The best presenters project confidence and poise. Adrenaline can be your friend, but you need to strike the right balance of calm, openness, excitement and energy.

5. Avoid Mistakes: The best competitors do not make silly mistakes. It is important to avoid cheesy clip art, nonessential flashiness, reading directly from your materials and other easily-avoidable issues. Of course, we’re all human! If you do make a mistake, focus on recovering smoothly.

This year is all about finding ways to break through to the next level. Learning the power of effective storytelling and delivering effective presentations will ensure you have a competitive advantage over others—in DECA and beyond!

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