Build the Picture

Manufacturing Millionaires

Sherry Knight

President & CEO at

Whenever you have a story to tell don’t skimp on the details! Include those little things that help, people make the connection to their own lives. Whenever you can get your audience living your story as their own story in their heads you have the opportunity to make it “stick”! And that is exactly what you want!

Think about it – I could say, “I was standing outside the office of the president with a group of people and the president said to me, ‘I wondered how long it would take to get rid of you?’” Or, I could add more colour to it, allowing more people to find something in my comments to connect with.

For instance, consider, “I loved my job – I had risen through two promotions and had very good reviews. The first female manager in the company’s 100+ years! Then, the bomb dropped! My boss, the best one I had ever had, the president, got moved to another city to take over another part of the company. Oh well! The new boss enthroned himself in the corner office – suddenly I was left out of meetings and stopped receiving memos. Yes, this was in the days when we got those memos by paper – anyone here remember those days?”


“You guessed it! I saw the writing on the wall and started looking for a new job. It only took a couple of weeks and I handed in my resignation. Not long after a group of us were standing outside the president’s office chatting – you know – work stuff plus the usual chatter about the latest football game. The president came by, shook my hand and leaned in to whisper in my ear, ‘I wondered how long it
would take to get rid of you!’ You can imagine my shock”.

Then I could go on to talk about communication techniques – questions to ask to better understand what was going on. Or, I could go on to address the element of shock and how the body deals with such events. Another approach would be to talk about confidence and what that might do to an individual. There are a thousand ways any story (well maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration – or not) can go. It depends on the picture you paint.



Remember, at the end of every exercise there needs to be a “Debrief” with specific questions to help people understand and decide how to implement this skill back in their own situation.

Put the details into your story – yes, shorten it if you need to from a time perspective – regardless take the piece out you want to focus on and tell that element only and yet still in detail.

“The writing was on the wall! I had been left out of meetings and not received memos – you know what that means! I started looking for a new job in my field of human resources. It was time to dust off the seven-year- old resume and connect with my network. Men, women, old ones, young ones, big business, industry and even non-profits. It only took a couple of weeks and I handed in my resignation.”

Now you might use this snippet to introduce the concept of networking in the job search area. Your key is to finesse your story to entice the audience to listen to you and to adjust it to fit the nuance of what you want to say.

Every story you tell MUST have a purpose, otherwise you are simply grandstanding and wasting your audience’s time. On top of that, you always want to explain your point in telling the story. Sometimes people need help in focusing on the point you want them to take because they are so caught up in their own story/life.

It’s always appropriate to help them along, guiding them through the work you want them to follow. For instance, you could bring in an exercise for the group or even an individual so they get the “ah-ha” you want them to get.

Now that you know what you need to do initially it’s time to get to work. Develop your presentation.


  • Know what you want people to learn by attending your presentation and by listening to your stories.
  • Choose the stories that address the key point you want to make.
  • Then choose the best one.
  • Rewrite, recite or whatever works best for you until you get your story detailed enough.
  • Share it with others to see how it comes across to them.
  • Ask for feedback.
  • Adjust your story until it is the best you have to offer.
  • Slip it into your presentation.


Many speakers keep a book with their stories in it. This saves on the time you need to think about what story to use in a specific place.

Jim Cathcart, renowned speaker and president of The Cathcart Institute from California takes this a step further. He tucks a list of all his stories into every presentation folder. He ticks off the stories he tells so he knows what he shared in this particular presentation. This way, if he is called back to give a presentation again he will not use the same story – especially in the same context. And, he even finds he can refer to the former story which many may remember, before he moves on to the new point he wants to make. It’s a great way to never appear unprofessional in a corporate venue.

There is always so much to consider in your presentations. By making sure your stories are colourful and have detail you will find it easier to focus on the rest of your presentation. Your approach may be something you have to work on and that is okay. However, your stories are yours and so you probably know them off by heart. They just need to be tweaked to meet the audience needs and your needs in
what you want them to learn.

Do you want more information about making presentations?

Why tell your story? To put it succinctly, stories touch 7 parts of your human brain. And this connects them to their own emotions – exactly what you want!

Enjoy, speaking is an honour! Hopefully this will make it easier on you.


Sherry Knight

President & CEO


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