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The voxgig newsletter is one year old this week! Just like with a new baby, a first birthday is cause for celebration. (As a father of four, I know all the clichés and I’m gonna use them .)

It’s incredible how quickly this first year has passed. When we started out, the voxgig newsletter people had lots of ambitions for their baby. Like real babies, a lot of time and effort went into it. Unlike real babies, it went straight from birth to running!

To celebrate, this week we’re doing a ‘Best of’, highlighting our most popular pieces so far. When first published in July 2018, the issue featuring this week’s main article—‘Eight classic storytelling techniques for engaging presentations’ (from ‘Sparkol’ blog – see below)—got such a positive response that we’ve selected it to be our flagship piece for this birthday issue.

It’s not hard to see why it was so popular. The piece is about telling stories, which is one of my personal favorite techniques in public speaking. I also love getting a two-for-one, and this article delivers just that: many of its techniques apply equally well to other endeavors, especially creative writing and journalistic writing. I hope you enjoy it as much on second reading as I did.

Raise a virtual glass of something bubbly with me and let’s toast…

Happy birthday, voxgig newsletter!


Eight classic storytelling techniques for engaging presentations

Source: Sparkol blog

…Deliver a presentation that captures the hearts and heads of your audience by stealing one of these classic storytelling techniques. Start with the story – the rest will be history.


The monomyth (also called the hero’s journey), is a story structure that is found in many folk tales, myths and religious writings from around the world.

In a monomyth, the hero is called to leave their home and sets out on a difficult journey. They move from somewhere they know into a threatening unknown place.

After overcoming a great trial, they return home with a reward or newfound wisdom – something which will help their community. Lots of modern stories still follow this structure, from the Lion King to Star Wars.

Using the monomyth to shape your presentation can help you to explain what has brought you to the wisdom you want to share. It can bring your message alive for your audience.

Doodle drawing of Monomyth concept

Good for:

  • Taking the audience on a journey

  • Showing the benefit of taking risks

  • Demonstrating how you learned some newfound wisdom


The mountain structure is a way of mapping the tension and drama in a story. It’s similar to the monomyth because it helps us to plot when certain events occur in a story.

It’s different because it doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending. The first part of the story is given to setting the scene, and is followed by just a series of small challenges and rising action before a climactic conclusion.

It’s a bit like a TV series – each episode has its ups and downs, all building up to a big finale at the end of the season.

Doodle of mountain with Drama Sign

Good for:

  • Showing how you overcame a series of challenges

  • Slowly building tension

  • Delivering a satisfying conclusion



Nested loops is a storytelling technique where you layer three or more narratives within each other.

You place your most important story – the core of your message – in the centre, and use the stories around it to elaborate or explain that central principle. The first story you begin is the last story you finish, the second story you start is second to last, etc.

Nested loops works a bit like a friend telling you about a wise person in their life, someone who taught them an important lesson. The first loops are your friend’s story, the second loops are the wise person’s story. At the centre is the important lesson.

Doodle drawing

Good for:

  • Explaining the process of how you were inspired/ came to a conclusion

  • Using analogies to explain a central concept

  • Showing how a piece of wisdom was passed along to you



Sparklines are a way of mapping presentation structures. Graphic designer Nancy Duarte uses sparklines to analyse famous speeches graphically in her book Resonate.

She argues that the very best speeches succeed because they contrast our ordinary world with an ideal, improved world. They compare what is with what could be.

By doing this the presenter draws attention to the problems we have in our society, our personal lives, our businesses. The presenter creates and fuels a desire for change in the audience.

It’s a highly emotional technique that is sure to motivate your audience to support you.

Doodle drawing

Good for:

  • Inspiring the audience to action

  • Creating hope and excitement

  • Creating a following


In medias res storytelling is when you begin your narrative in the heat of the action, before starting over at the beginning to explain how you got there.

By dropping your audience right into the most exciting part of your story they’ll be gripped from the beginning and will stay engaged to find out what happens.

But be careful – you don’t want to give away too much of the action straight away. Try hinting at something bizarre or unexpected – something that needs more explanation. Give your audience just enough information to keep them hooked, as you go back and set the scene of your story.

This only works for shorter presentations though – if you string it out too long your audience will get frustrated and lose interest.

Doodle drawing of man falling

Good for:

  • Grabbing attention from the start

  • Keep an audience craving resolution

  • Focusing attention on a pivotal moment in your story


Converging ideas is a speech structure that shows the audience how different strands of thinking came together to form one product or idea.

It can be used to show the birth of a movement. Or explain how a single idea was the culmination of several great minds working towards one goal.

Converging ideas is similar to the nested loops structure, but rather than framing one story with complementary stories, it can show how several equally important stories came to a single strong conclusion.

This technique could be used to tell the stories of some of the world’s greatest partnerships – for example, web developers Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Larry and Sergey met at Stanford’s PhD program in 1995, but they didn’t like each other at first. They both had great ideas, but found working together hard. Eventually they found themselves working on a research project together. A research project that became Google.

Doodle drawing of four lightbulbs at the corners of a diamond shape with arrow going from left to right through the middle

Good for:

  • Showing how great minds came together

  • Demonstrating how a development occurred at a certain point in history

  • Showing how symbiotic relationships have formed


A ‘false start’ story is when you begin to tell a seemingly predictable story, before unexpectedly disrupting it and beginning it over again. You lure your audience into a false sense of security, and then shock them by turning the tables.

This format is great for talking about a time that you failed in something and were forced to ‘go back to the start’ and reassess. It’s ideal for talking about the things that you learnt from that experience. Or the innovative way that you solved your problem.

But best of all, it’s a quick attention hack which will disrupt your audience’s expectations and surprise them into paying closer attention to your message.

Doodle, man walking into wall first before he finds right way to go

Good for:

  • Disrupting audience expectations

  • Showing the benefits of a flexible approach

  • Keeping the audience engaged



The petal structure is a way of organising multiple speakers or stories around one central concept. It’s useful if you have several unconnected stories you want to tell or things you want to reveal – that all relate back to a single message.

You tell your stories one by one before returning back to the centre. The petals can overlap as one story introduces the next but each should be a complete narrative in itself.

In doing so, you can weave a rich tapestry of evidence around your central theory. Or strong emotional impressions around your idea.

By showing your audience how all these key stories are related to one another, you leave them feeling the true importance and weight of your message.

Doodle of a 4 petaled flower

Good for:

  • Demonstrating how strands of a story or process are interconnected

  • Showing how several scenarios relate back to one idea

  • Letting multiple speakers talk around a central theme




Voxgig Podcast

Coming Soon… 

I am delighted to announce that  voxgig is starting a podcast series! The title of the series is ‘Fireside with voxgig’. In each podcast, I’ll be interviewing leading experts from the events industry.  The aim is to deliver high quality insights, valuable public speaking tips and enjoyable personal success stories, all in a relaxed, informal and chatty style. Keep an eye out here for the first podcast in the series, coming soon. 

Speaker Profile

image of Teri Hart in studio that looks like a living room

Seven tips to overcome your fear of public speaking
Teri Hart

Entertainment reporter Teri Hart uses the acronym BRIEF for every public appearance:

B – Belief: you must believe in what you’re saying.

R – Rehearse: practice makes perfect.

I – Interesting: trust that you are interesting.

E – Edit: keep it precise and relevant for the listener.

F – Fun: you’ve got to have fun, enjoy the experience.

Very useful advice from an industry expert to boost your confidence on stage.

Learn from the Best

Robert De Niro speaking at the podium wearing purple robes of the college

Robert De Niro gives amazing graduation speech to NYU grads

Robert De Niro is no stranger to rejection. In this video, he speaks about the perspective gained through rejection and how it can open up new ideas. “A new door is opening to you. A door to a lifetime of rejection. It’s inevitable. It’s what graduates call the real world.” In the true DeNiro spirit, he delivers his speech with humour and realism. Note: there is some colorful language…because DeNiro.

Tell me…

What is your biggest challenge as an event speaker?

This newsletter is for you. I want it to resonate with you.

So go ahead, hit reply, and tell me what you want to read about. Or email me at richard@voxgig.com. You can tweet too: @voxgig.

I’ll address the most pressing issues in each edition.

Blog Post

Using props for effective speaking

Anything that is on stage with you can be used as a prop: from the lecterns and flip charts, to costumes, noisemakers or any other object you want to bring along to make your point stick.

Speaker Training

Do you speak at conferences? Want to learn how to give the very best talks? Or are you just starting out and want to overcome the fear of speaking on stage?
We are running speaker training workshops in Dublin, Ireland and London, U.K. over the coming months.

Speaker workshops are £150

There is an early bird price of £100 if booked a month in advance.

To find out more follow the links below.

Public speaking with Debbie Forster

London, UK – Thursday October 18, 2018 | More Details

Giving great talks with Russ Miles

London, UK – Thursday November 8, 2018 | More Details

Three Conferences


Velocity New York

Velocity New York

Part of a series of conferences hosted by O’Reilly, Velocity New York is all about highlighting key innovations and trends to help build the skills to meet the pressing demands of work, learning from your peers, meeting with industry leaders, and leaving with knowledge you can use immediately. Prior to the conference, two days of training are available in Docker Tools and Kubernetes, so be sure to check out the details – then start making plans to head to New York!


Agile Africa

Agile Africa

Agile Africa is celebrating its sixth year of bringing Agile minds together, with speakers, local and international, for a truly diverse gathering. If Agile is your forte, you’ll want to be present to learn about the latest trends, implementations, challenges and the future of Agile. Johannesburg is awaiting your visit!


FutureStack London

FutureStack London

“Great software is built and run by data nerds. And data nerds use New Relic.” New Relic proudly hosts a series of conferences globally featuring New Relic leaders, customers, partners, industry thought-leaders and cloud experts. You’ll have demos and networking at your fingertips with the opportunity to learn more about the analytics engine New Relic is known for. Are you ready to join the data nerd movement? Then start packing for London!




CFP Calendar

These are the CFP deadline dates and submission pages.




A favour…

Can I ask you for a favour? If you enjoy this newsletter, and if you find it useful, please consider recommending it to a friend who is learning to give technical talks, or who aspires to do so. I meet so many cool programmers who have brilliant things to share with the world—that’s you!

Please help me to improve this newsletter – I’d love to hear your suggestions! You can email me directly at richard@voxgig.com. You can tweet too: @voxgig. Thank you so much for reading!

A special thanks and shout out to Tammy and Cora, for helping to make this newsletter even better!


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