Independence Day: Storytelling vs Telling Stories

Independence Day Fireworks

Independence Day Fireworks

I always loved the Fourth of July as a child.  I loved weaving red, white, and blue crepe-paper streamers through the spokes of my bicycle wheels and riding around the neighborhood with my sister and our friends.

I loved the backyard parties my family hosted for friends to sit on our back porch and watch the fireworks display from the country club about a mile away.  But I have to say I was always a little scared of the sparklers and I remember holding them out at arm’s length and not waving them around like the other kids did.

What I just shared with you is an example of telling a story.  Short stories like this are also called anecdotes. says that anecdotes are short accounts of a particular incident or event, especially one that is interesting or humorous.

These are the type of short stories that many people include in their speeches and that most speaking coaches encourage their students to use — with good reason:  Stories are much more interesting for your audience than a dry, factual explanation of the point your are trying to get across.

“Funny as it may sound, storytelling should not be confused with telling stories.” ~ Alexei Kapterev

Telling stories is a good public speaking technique. But with a multimedia presentation, you have the opportunity to do much more with storytelling.

Storytelling relies on a larger, overall story structure to create dramatic tension that keeps your audience even more engaged than listening to a series of short stories. This story structure is sometimes called narrative structure or 3-act structure and it is commonly used in movie script writing.

Even though a movie might have some little stories inside of it, what makes a movie so engaging and entertaining is the overall structure which the scriptwriter works so hard to develop.

A lot of hard work goes into the planning and development of a movie’s story structure. To create a really good, engaging multimedia presentation, you also need to spend time developing a structure that will capture — and hold — the attention of your audience. A string of many short stories does not provide that type of dramatic story arc.

American Revolution Poster

American Revolution Poster: Join or Die

To go back to the Independence Day theme, we could look at the series of stories used in a typical speech as being the equivalent of the original 13 American colonies, pre-1776.

The 13 colonies were functioning all right as separate entities. But when they wanted to accomplish something much grander, like freeing themselves from their British sovereigns, they needed a different structure.

If you’d like to learn how story structure or 3-act structure can bring you grander results from your multimedia presentations, here are some next steps you could try:

  • View my presentation which you can find on my website at
  • Check out some of my older blog posts that discuss different aspects of applying story to a presentation.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your favorite Fourth of July stories. Please leave a comment below.

One Response to “Independence Day: Storytelling vs Telling Stories”

  1. You make good points about the importance of story telling to engage an audience. Of course, this applies to writing in so many ways too – even personal letters. My favorite 4ths where spent at the Cape. I still have vivid mind images of the sand dunes, tall grass and quaint cottages, smell and taste memories of the roasted wild peas & somores we devoured and sound echos of the chant us kids would shout while dancing around a bon fire ‘The Fourth of July is Great!’