A carbon monoxide gas leak, his mother’s immune system irreparably destroyed, an existential breakdown and, to top it all off, being rejected by every humanitarian organization he tried to volunteer for…

These are the bits and pieces from the story that catalyzed Scott Harrison’s journey to launching his non-profit organization, charity:water. To date, they have raised more than $300 million and funded over 38,000 clean-water projects. From the very beginning, his idea was up against the standard set of hurdles: lack of visibility, limited resources, daunting statistics…And his biggest challenge? Most people don’t trust charity organizations. It scares us that we have no idea where the money we donate is actually going (and worse, we fear that it could be going into the wrong pockets).

Non-profits are like “black holes,” as Harrison so vividly described them. But through an emotionally charged and authentic account of his path, Harrison was able to break through this deep mistrust and inspire everyone from angel investors to celebrities to his cause. How did he do this? He harnessed the power of a masterfully crafted story

Storytelling isn’t just a handy tool, it’s how great presenters catalyze us to act. And to help transform your next presentation into a compelling story, we’ve gathered five of the best storytelling articles from the true masters of the craft. Each explores the different ways to approach storytelling, from scientific to subjective. But what they do have in common is that they all provide actionable insights that will help tap into your ability to connect — with yourself, your message and your audience — and create a more memorable message

We highly recommend reading through the articles in the sequence presented. Like any good plot, we’ve arranged it in a logical order, starting with broad strokes then getting down into the juicy details.

So, let’s kick things off with:

1. IDEO’s Storytelling Methodology

When starting out to become a great storyteller, it’s useful to have an excellent framework to help guide your planning and thinking. And it’s no surprise that IDEO is where we’ll begin our journey. As innovators in the field of design and communication, they pioneered the use of human-centered design to tackle the world’s toughest business challenges.

Nicole Kahn, now Director for IDEO’s Design for Change studio, helped develop a set of best practices for storytelling. Their goal was to have a model that any team member can use to come up with high-impact presentations consistently. In a Design+Startup event co-hosted with First Round Capital, Kahn has shared their storytelling process in detail. Published on the First Round Capital blog, this article summarizes her talk and gives practical insight into their methods.

IDEO’s framework focuses on the prep work and divides it into three stages — finding your story, crafting it, and finally telling it. Finding your story is all about coming up with the “single biggest idea” — the entire point of your presentation. Using clever techniques like the Bar Test, you work on making your story crystal clear and that much more effective.

Once you’ve found your story, crafting it is the next step, where you flesh out your presentation decks. Here, you’ll discover a common but costly mistake most presenters make — underestimating the power of visuals.

“When you put up a slide covered with text, you are literally giving up your power to shape a story and command attention.”

Your slides should reinforce and empower your presentation, not be the center of it.

And finally, with everything in place, you get to the last but most crucial part — telling your story. Focusing on flawlessly delivering your presentation is just as important as taking the time to plan it out. This where the IDEO model emphasizes very simple advice that the majority of people, unfortunately, ignore — practicing your presentation the proper way, preferably with a coach or partner who can give you honest feedback.

The IDEO method allows you to arrive at an engaging story-line more quickly, so you can then lay the foundation and begin delving into the actual structure of your narrative.

2. Aristotle’s Three-Part Story Structure (And Why It’s So Effective)

When it comes to telling a great story, there’s a technique that works so well, it’s been used throughout history from Greek poetry all the way to Hollywood blockbusters. And rather than try to recreate the wheel, you can use this same structure to make your presentations more memorable, actionable, and easier for people to understand. We’re talking about the Three-Part Story Structure

While this has been discussed countless times, our favorite is Nancy Duarte’s take on it. In her insightful article for Harvard Business Review, she uncovers how this same structure is at the core of the world’s most effective presentations.

First, you have the Beginning or the Setup. You start by telling a story your audience is already familiar with — it can be a long-time issue their team or department is facing or some sort of status quo in their life.

You then introduce to them your vision of something better — what if they get to solve their problems? How better will the team be, or how much more profit can the company make? What will life be like for them?

This gap should, in Nancy’s words,

“throw the audience a bit off balance, and that’s a good thing — it jars them out of complacency.”

You then go to the next stage, which is the Middle, or the Conflict. Here, you widen the gap even further and create some tension. This makes the solution you’ll present in the last stage that much more appealing and inspiring for your audience.

Lastly, you get to the End or the Resolution. This is where you present precisely how you’ll get your audience to the Promised Land you built up in the first two stages. More importantly, you want to inspire them to take action.

Following Nancy’s advice on using the Three Part Story Structure makes it incredibly easy to organize your points into an inspiring and compelling narrative.

With an outline in place, now it’s just a matter of improving your story further…

3. 8 Tips to Make You a Great Story Teller

There are a gazillion ways and techniques to craft an engaging story, but it all boils down to two things: Keeping your audience engaged and focusing on the main idea. If your presentations can do these effectively, it will be that much more powerful.

In 8 Tips to Make You a Great Story Teller, Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne provides a set of guidelines to help you you achieve just that. A renowned psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Dr. Whitbourne is a regular contributor on mainstream media such as the Today Show, The Wall Street Journal, and Time.com. In this insightful piece, she starts off with an interesting study that further reinforces the effectiveness of storytelling in giving compelling presentations (if for some reason, you’re not convinced yet at this point!).

The study, led by University of Nebraska Lincoln communications researcher Jody Kellas, involved pairs of volunteers. One would tell the other a story involving a sad or difficult situation. Participants were then assessed weeks later on how well they were doing emotionally and mentally. The outcome is as expected. While the tellers of the stories felt better after telling their sad tale, the listeners found that their mental health declined over time.

But a surprising result is that the storytellers also felt that their listening partners showed disinterest and, therefore, judged them as being less skilled communicators. In other words, people didn’t generally want to be told depressing things for long, and would actively avoid negative storytellers if they can. The study’s result highlights an important fact: the people who listen to your stories are equally or even more important than the story itself, and greatly influences how you should tell it.

With this as a background, the rest of the article is devoted to actionable tips that you can use right now to improve the impact of your presentations. Things like setting the context and being aware of your audience and the impact your story has on them reminds you of the importance of knowing who you’re telling the story to. Having this knowledge can help you craft a presentation that your audience is willing to digest and take action on.

Some of the tips also touch on being more concise. Avoiding unnecessary details and keeping it short ensures that you get your point across without wasting your audience’s time. And the rest are just practical nuggets of information — rehearsing your presentation, not embellishing too much and considering the people in your story.

4. Six Rules on Great Storytelling (As Told by Pixar)

If you want examples of great stories, look no further than the movies. Some of the most impactful and memorable stories of our time were produced by a true genius in the field — Pixar Animation Studios.

Back in 2012, Emma Coats tweeted 22 tips for storytelling she picked up during her time as a Pixar storyboard artist. Brian Peters, head of Strategic Partnerships at Spotify, built upon this and condensed the now famous 22 tips into six guidelines.

Peters starts by reminding us that great stories are universal. This rule addresses the human condition and involves a deep dive into the self. In her original tweet, Coats writes:

“Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it”

Regardless of your race or culture, everyone can relate to a story if it involves some aspect of being human.

Next, he touched upon the rules that provide the recipe for a Hollywood blockbuster: People love it when they have someone to root for. So make sure that your central character (it can be you or your audience) is an unexpected hero people can’t help but want to win against all the odds.

The most powerful stories also tap into our deepest emotions. If your presentation can do that, it will resonate more with people, and make them more willing to move mountains and take action. Stories are interesting when it’s surprising and unexpected. Like a good plot twist, you can have people talk and think about it well after your presentation is over.

Finally, he lays out communication essentials, like having a clear structure and purpose and being simple and focused. These rules will make sure your story is told in the clearest way possible, and allow your audience to absorb its central idea easily. Apply these 6 rules, and you’ll be able to simplify your presentation while giving it much more narrative power and depth.

5. Five Tidbits of Storytelling Wisdom from a TEDx Speaker

Believe it or not, refining your presentation is more about taking things out than putting them in. Just ask TEDx speaker Jen Massaro.

A student of IDEO’s Storytelling for Influence course, her story is centered on an epic two-year sailing journey that saw her pass through the Panama Canal, over the Caribbean, and across the Atlantic (during hurricane season, of all times!) — with her husband and 10-year-old son. Yes, she has quite the story to tell, but still somehow struggled to tell it in a meaningful way.

But through the process of polishing her narrative and pushing herself to be vulnerable, she arrived at a story so powerful and thought-provoking that it eventually led her to the TEDx stage. In this personal article, she outlines the 5 practical tips she used to transform her story from good to “great and ready for delivery” — things you can apply to your own presentations.

While these tips might seem simple, they all speak to the heart of great storytelling — the narrator itself. We’ve already touched upon one tip — ruthlessly editing and taking things out if they don’t serve the central idea of the story. Jen likens it to being a sculptor… carving away dull rock to reveal something extraordinary. As a speaker, you also shouldn’t be afraid of getting out of your comfort zone. By being open about your challenges, fears, and mistakes in your stories, you seem more authentic and relatable to your audience.

The best stories are those that try to empathize with the reader. Even if the presentation is about you, how can you make it so that people can relate and learn from it? If people can see themselves in your story, then you’ve done a remarkable job.

Lastly, Jen touches on the importance of the big idea and practice. Both are extremely important, hence why they keep getting repeated as cornerstones of great presentations. Stories have been a fundamental part of being human ever since we learned how to communicate with each other. It’s how we convey ideas, share our collective history, and lead others to a common goal.

More importantly, it’s how we, as a species, have managed to cooperate and survive. Telling someone facts on how to do something is much less effective than using a meaningful story that taps into their emotions. Whenever we give presentations, we are always in it to influence people — to make them see how we see things.

By weaving a great story into your talk, you give yourself the best chance to advance your cause and inspire your audience to action.

Now go out there and create amazing stories, and share them in the comments below!