Combining Storytelling and Cartooning

Cartoon storytelling
Weaving a bedtime story

The essence of storytelling and cartooning is about painting a picture for your audience. These are two competencies I would recommend for any presenter or leader. I believe combining them together makes them particularly powerful.


Stories are the most powerful delivery tool for information, more powerful and enduring than any other art form” according to Nancy Duarte in her book Resonate. This is an excellent book which explains how you can present visual stories that transform audiences.

Stories have been used throughout human history across the world; long before the written word. It was the way information was passed down through generations. People love to hear stories; and as children, many of us would have stories read or told to us at bedtime.

Cartoon storytelling
Weaving a bedtime story

“When was the last time someone read aloud to you? Probably when you were a child, and if you think back, you’ll remember how safe you felt, tucked under the covers, or curled in someone’s arms, as a story was spun around you like a web” Extract from The Storyteller – Jodi Picoult

They help make sense of the world and teach us important values. A story creates a sense of safety in our brains, which makes the mind more receptive to ideas.

A well known example is the hare and the tortoise. My favourite is the African fable of the ant and the elephant. The internet is a rich source of stories. I keep a file of useful stories to use in my speeches or training.

Many public speakers will use stories to enhance their presentations. A good story needs to have:

  • Structure – a clear start, middle and end.
  • Purpose – a message you want to impart – valuable insights.
  • Hero – a person who the audience can relate to.
  • Resonance – trust needs to be built up – people connect with you and your story
  • Journey – your audience is taken through ups and downs creating contrast
  • Content – words that build verbal imagery – varied emotional impact is critical.
  • Delivery – a variety of tempo, rhythm, intonation, pauses and volume.


They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Cartooning allows you to bring visual thinking into your presentations for greater impact. It can breathe new life into the way you communicate. It allows you to simplify your message by getting to its essence and turn abstract ideas into clear, memorable images. It uses visual metaphors to make your messages stick. It can also bring all important humour into your presentation.

Learning how to draw cartoons can also change the way you think. Cartoon thinking is where less is more. It is very easy in this modern world of information overload to become addicted and overdose on data. Thinking like a cartoonist strips that away and gets you down to the essence of your message.

With the issue of copyright, finding suitable visual material for presentations can be a minefield. This can be avoided by creating your own drawings. It makes it more personal and you can make the picture truly relevant to what you have to say. You may be saying ‘Yes but I can’t draw’. What I learnt was that everyone can draw. It is a skill that grows with practice; just like any other. You can create your message with cartooning using simple lines. Detail is not critical. Let your audience’s imagination fill the gaps.

If you would like to learn more about cartooning for communicators, I would highly recommend Creativity Works course.

Combining Storytelling and Cartooning

As part of my progress to the Toastmasters International’s Silver Competent Communicator Award, I had to deliver an original story with a moral. As the Storytelling manual explained, “stories are an excellent method for teaching lessons and providing insight as well as a source of entertainment.” The objectives were to:

  • Understand that a story can be entertaining yet display moral values.
  • Create a new story that offers a lesson or moral.
  • Tell the story using previously learnt speaking skills.
Not everyone will react in the same way to what you say.
Not everyone will react in the same way to what you say.

It is quite a challenge to come up with an original story, but well worth the effort if you want to get a strong message across. To create a new story entitled ‘It’s the Essence’, I collated a collage of real stories that I had heard over the years.  I wanted to use these to convey the insightful messages I had learnt on the  Cartooning for Communicators course. This was that it is the essence that counts. The human imagination can fill in the detail. This applies in drawing, speaking or life itself.  I also wanted to utilise my newly found, fledgling cartooning skills to add meaning to the story.

It’s the Essence was delivered at Casterbridge Speakers Club on 17th August 2016

The feedback from my speech included:

“Expressive, charismatic, impactful.  Great start, really painted pictures in our minds.”

“Enjoyed the accents and the way you play with language.”

“Developed fabulous characters of John and his father – could all relate to it in some way with our own experiences. A fine line between an accent adding value and it being a distraction”

What do you think? Do storytelling and cartooning work for you?

Why not send your response as a cartoon?

Also published on Medium.

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