A few years ago, I referred to a primary school principal who needed some help delivering presentations to his students. Let’s call him Bob. When I first met Bob, I immediately warmed to him.  You could see he was a caring person who genuinely loved his job, his students, and his teachers. He was also quite introverted; this unfortunately was exacerbated by the personality of the Headmaster who was gregarious and extroverted. 

Bob fell into the trap of comparing himself with the Headmaster. He explained to me that he found it hard to craft engaging talks when he spoke at the assembly, and he felt a lot of pressure from the headmaster to be better at presenting and this was making him feel uncomfortable.  

He didn’t know where to start when crafting a presentation or how to tailor it to his students

I explained to him that good speakers are made and not born in that everybody can learn to be a more engaging speaker, they just have to find and amplify their stories within. 

As I looked around Bob’s office, I saw a photo of a cyclist on a racing bike, and I turned to Bob and said, “Is that you?” He told me it was, and I asked him if he was a weekend warrior or a frequent rider.  He told me that he had ridden all his life and had competed at the Commonwealth games.


 And I thought to myself: There is our story!

“So, Bob ” I asked “Have you ever fallen off? And he told me multiple times, “Great” I said, “Any gory pictures?” Because kids love gory pictures and he had those too. 

So here is what I suggested he talk about at his next assembly:

Start with a grab

The beginning of your talk is all about engagement. Encourage interaction with a question and an action. 

  • Who here can ride a bike?
  • Raise your hand. 
  • Can you remember what it was like when you started? How hard was it?
  • Are you good at it now?

Weave in your story

  • I was five when I started bike riding and I never stopped
  • I loved bike riding so much that I trained and trained and trained 
  • And, you know what? I got pretty good
  • I competed at the Commonwealth Games

Link it to your message

  • Who here has ever fallen off a bike?
  • Yeah, me too – I’ve fallen off lots! (Show gory photos)
  • So, what do you think I did when I fell off?
  • Yep, I got back on again, and again, and again and kept on going until I won a bronze medal.
  • None of us are born riding a bike. It takes courage, practice and persistence to get good at it. 
  • We need to apply this to bike riding, and sometimes we need to apply it to reading, or maths, or geography
  • And do you know what? That’s okay. Because one day you look back and say wow look at that – look how far I’ve come.

Conclude and cement

  • So sometime this week you may be thinking to yourself “I can’t do this, it’s too hard.” And I want you to remind yourself what it was like when you first started riding a bike
  • Because if you stick with something long enough, one day it will become easy and you’ll think hey, I can do this and so can you

It’s not just Bob that has a story lurking within, we all do. Stories help us explain, engage, excite, and empathise. They make our message sticky and memorable and move people to action. 

Reflect on your life and think about the time you;

  • Overcame adversity
  • Stretched yourself
  • Changed your way of doing things
  • Helped someone
  • Learnt something

These make up the foundation of your presentation, as long as the story is relevant to your objective and the audience, you’re on a winner.

Sharon Ferrier
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