There is a great old song by my favorite folk singer Ellis Paul called "Live in the Now". While he's talking about being in the moment and not getting caught up in the future and past, it's a great lesson for storytellers because stories have to live in the now as well.
Stories are by their nature mostly about the past, but the power of a great story is making it seem as it it is happening in real-time as the teller communicates it. The storyteller has to quickly transition from setting up a story of months or years ago to something that seems to be spontaneously happening in the moment. That's why film makers use flashbacks. It turns the past into the present and has the audience living the moment with the storyteller to get the maximum emotional impact, and emotional impact is what storytelling is all about.
So, when you're telling a story you need to quickly transition from past tense to present. Such as...
"Courtney was trying to solve a problem in her business right before a meeting with her Board of Directors a couple of years ago. She's thinking that the issue is with how she is handling her reporting. She decides that she needs to make a change and goes straight to her CEO and says..."
This intentional shift might have gotten you in trouble writing a paper in high school because is could be viewed as inconsistent, but it's really the tool of a great storyteller to increase the emotional impact with the audience. The audience isn't hearing an old story, they are living through the event as it happens, and that keeps people's attention regardless of the story you're telling.
Robert is a speaker coach, actor, director, author, speaker, executive and overall marketing guy. He writes about all aspects of presenting and connecting with audiences.