The Power of Personal Stories: Presentations with Soul

I was recently teaching a Presentations Skills workshop for a client, and I invited one of my trusted colleagues, Karyn Ruth White (, as a guest presenter.  She showed us, through a hands-on workshop, the power of personal stories and how to integrate them into our business presentations, speeches, training and daily interactions.  Personal stories create “universal teaching points” that we, and others, can learn from and grow.  Stories are information with a soul!

Simple story, deep message

Think of a personal story, circumstance or experience that has had an impact on you.  It could involve your interaction with one of your children, a friend, a colleague, a family member or a complete stranger!  As an example: Here is a personal story that Karyn Ruth shared with the group:

Karyn Ruth White was walking into Walmart. She was not having a particularly good day or feeling energetic or social.  (We have all had days like that – part of the human journey!)  As she entered, she recognized Tammy, the cashier on duty. Tammy was ringing up a customer and humming the song “Hokey Pokey”.  (Yup!  You got it… “You put your right foot in, you take your right foot out”…now try to get that song out of your head for the rest of the day!) 

Karyn Ruth realized in that moment that she had a choice: She could walk right by and not acknowledge Tammy, or her silly song, and continue not feeling social, OR she could join in with the song and lighten the moment.  (You guessed it, she chose the latter.)  Karyn Ruth walked right over to Tammy and started singing the song out loud and doing “the dance.”  Soon, there were giggling children and light-hearted adults dancing the Hokey Pokey in the middle of Walmart!  Everyone who was participating or just passing by, ended up laughing and clapping along!

you put your right foot in

Pause for a moment and reflect. What “Universal Teaching Points” do you see or sense in this story? In other words, what’s the moral of the story? [Hint: there can be more than one!]

What do you hear?

When I listened to this story, I heard these Universal Teaching Points:

  1. Every day there are choices: to choose to be sad or happy, engaged or not engaged. It’s a choice to stay in a negative place or shift to a positive outlook.
  2. We can choose to participate in life, or walk right by and ignore the moments or opportunities that show up in our lives.
  3. We can connect with other human beings or we can retreat into solitude.
  4. Within all of us is a giggling, dancing child ready to do the Hokey Pokey!
  5. When we are dancing the Hokey Pokey, we are all connected, doing the same dance and moving together; we become united through the movement of the dance and joy.  Judgments, positions, titles, all disappear: we become one, dancing the same dance.

Listeners contribute, too

You may take away something different from any given personal story. When we hear someone else’s story, we can’t help but hear it through our own life’s experiences. What we get from a story like KRW’s depends on what the storyteller tells AND on what our lives bring to the tale! So, if you took a few different Universal Teaching Points away from “The Hokey Pokey,” that’s okay!

I challenge you to mine your life for stories that can create a “Universal Teaching Point”: an experience you have had, a situation you survived, a circumstance that has occurred or one you observed. Dig a little deeper into the story to find a golden nugget of learning and growth for yourself and others. Find ways to work your story into presentations, and, more importantly, share what you learned from that moment or experience. Share your wisdom in a way that your listeners can apply it in their own lives.

Everyone wants to have fun

Research shows that storytellers and their audience actually start to think more alike as the story goes on – the story creates a meeting of the minds! As leaders, it is one of our goals to connect with others, to find ways to continuously grow and learn ourselves, and to challenge others to grow and develop as well. Storytelling is a great tool to use as a leader! Have fun mining your unique experience and growing and teaching through the “Universal Teaching Points” of your stories.


Karyn Ruth White

Karyn Ruth White

When she’s not doing the Hokey Pokey, Karyn Ruth White is a nationally recognized Funny Keynote Speaker, Trainer and Professional Speaking Coach. She works with thought-leaders who want to up-level their impact with a professionally crafted message, punch-it up for more laughter breaks, and tighten their existing presentations. She also works with cutting-edge business authors who want to launch their book with a new Keynote.

Karyn loves helping speakers and leaders craft their authentic voice and learn to express their original humor. She was recently awarded First Place, National Winner of The Jeanne Robertson “Comedy with Class” Competition. She has a decade of experience as a touring Stand-up Comedian, and 15 years (and counting) delivering Clean, Funny Keynotes at Conferences across the U.S. As the owner of Laugh and Learn Productions, LLC, she helps people stress less and work with more joy. Visit her at, on LinkedIn or on Twitter @karynruth

Marguerite Ham

Marguerite Ham

Marguerite Ham is known for her highly energetic, entertaining, customized and content-rich presentations. She serves as the Dean of the Selected Leadership Academy and has been an executive coach for more than 10 years, guiding executives and entrepreneurs to discover their authentic path of success while being in alignment with their values and goals as well as those of their organizations to reach their highest potential.

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