Career Woman

7 storytelling structures to capture your audience during a presentation


Finding new and interesting angles for presentations can a real challenge. Nobody wants to be up on stage watching the audience fidget because they’re bored and disengaged, so finding the right structure to tell your stories is crucial.

A great way of doing this is to know how to structure your presentation, and in his book ‘The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories’, Christopher Booker has picked out 7 storytelling structures that you can use to shape your content into a captivating narrative.

Overcoming a monster

If you’ve read any fairy tale or seen any big Hollywood action film, you’ll know this story well. It’s the age-old fable of girl learns about monster, trains for battle, meets monster, starts to lose the battle, tries new approach, defeats monster and wins. Of course, you don’t have to have actually fought a real monster, it’s just a good way to structure the story of a personal challenge you faced and overcame at work.

Rags to riches

You can see this one as a kind of Cinderella story but with lots more grit and determination rather than Fairy Godmothers and Prince Charmings. It’s all about how you went from difficult circumstances to great wealth, going into the challenges you faced along the way and how you used your vulnerabilities to achieve the necessary results.

Voyage and return

You’ll be familiar with this story if you’ve ever watched The Wizard Of Oz, where Dorothy (you) gets transported to a new land (or unfamiliar working experiences), faced your struggles, defeated evil (whatever was stopping you getting the job done) and returned home much wiser and stronger as a result. It’s an excellent way of showing how you can get out of your comfort zone and still succeed.

The quest

Here’s one for Lord Of The Rings fans. Your team has a quest to go on, faces obstacles and overcomes them, before coming face to face with the final deadly challenge. You defeat that, claim the reward and travel home. It’s the ideal structure for any presentation involving teamwork or leadership skills. Top tip – make sure it doesn’t last as long as the Lord Of The Rings films.


Please note, this is a storytelling structure, not a recommendation to turn your presentation into a stand-up comedy routine, unless you’re very good at comedy. This is more in the vein of Shakespearian comedies, where two potential lovers meet, are kept apart, resolve their issues and get together. So you could use it to demonstrate when communication helped you clear up a misunderstanding and get a project back on track.


A tragedy in a storytelling sense is where someone takes the wrong path in life and it leads to their downfall, which tends to also be their death. Your own tragic story doesn’t need to quite as dramatic but it is a good structure for telling your audience about a time where you made a mistake and what you learned from it to become the better person you are today.


The rebirth storytelling structure shows the alternate path the villain could have taken in the tragedy, where they are saved from the darkness by a redemption figure who shows them the way forwards. For you, it’s a structure for demonstrating how you can learn from others to make better choices, even if the redemption figure turns out to be a helpful colleague rather than an actual angel.

These storytelling structures make up most of the movies you’ve ever seen, so you can follow the tips from the infographic by Quid Corner to bring that cinematic magic to your presentation. Try to incorporate your experiences and you’ll craft attention-grabbing stories that will help you engage the audience in your next presentation.


About Marilyn Vinchy

Marilyn Vinchy is a freelance writer and HR specialist. She works for several marketing and public relations agencies, supporting their content teams. She writes about leadership, careers and personal development, and has a knack for productivity and time management techniques. You’ll find her on Twitter here, and you can also visit her blog.

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