The natural human instinct to share and hear stories can be an effective tool in presenting information.
Recall the last time you were able to hear an engaging presentation. If you are anything like me, you might have found yourself swaying forward or on the edge as the presenter explained their topic. Maybe the subject matter was something that you didn’t find interesting. The skillful presentation made you cheer for the “hero” or “heroine” in marketing to defeat the “dragons”, which lurked in complex customer surveys.
Some of the most skilled presenters know how to use storytelling mechanics to create their presentations, regardless of whether they are aware of it. These presentations are not a wall of information. They have a clear beginning and end, as well as a list of characters (including “good guys” or “villains”), and an engaging flow.
Stories create supporters
Engaged audiences can be achieved by storytelling. Stories can help your audience see themselves in the content and connect with the characters.
This trick is something you’ve likely been exposed to since childhood. Instead of sharing statistics on child abductions and mitigation strategies with you, an adult in your youth probably told you a fairytale, such as “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Hansel and Gretel,” which provided valuable content about dealing with unfamiliar people and the dangers associated with straying from a certain path.
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Storytelling: How to get started?
The best thing about storytelling to communicate information more effectively is its naturalness and ease. We’ve been telling stories since we were able to talk. There’s no need for complex frameworks or multiple steps.
Good storytellers start with the end in their minds. What should your listener think about your story and how should they feel? Even if your presentation is merely informational, think about how your listener should feel about it. They should be ready to act, feel comfortable, or concerned about the world.
Next, think about the characters in your story. This is a little more difficult because you don’t have to worry about any hungry wolves or dragons lurking within your company. Your company or team can be the “hero”, while an external event or competitor could be the villain.
While most people feel a natural affinity for their “home team” or company, don’t be afraid to remind your audience of the attributes that will make them invested in your story. You’re likely to have heard presentations where your company was portrayed as the “proverbial David” ready for battle against a Goliath from a larger industry or competitor. Perhaps you could make your hero a slow-moving, but loving giant who must adapt to the changing world.
Villains can be from competitors to external market conditions or inanimate objects such as a pending regulation, mandate, or other directive.
When presenting your presentation, think about how your audience will invest in the hero and their metaphorical fight against the villain. This clash is important. How can the audience invest in it? What are the consequences for failing to recognize or ignoring this looming threat
For the final part of your presentation, you can share a “happy ever after” that shows the world’s future if your hero achieves the best outcome. You can also contrast the future with a grim view of the world in which the hero has failed.
It might be helpful to imagine how you would present complex business or technical problems to children. What metaphors and ways would you use to get your child involved in the outcome, even if they didn’t know all the technical details?
Although it may feel awkward at first, let your natural ability to tell stories drive the structure, flow, and then add the technical details to complete the story.
A storytelling structure will engage your audience and allow them to invest in the “happy ever after” story you are presenting. A simple tool to make yourself a better presenter is using our natural ability to tell and hear stories.