The most powerful way to make a memorable impact in any business presentation is to tell a story.
Human beings have been telling tales from the first moment we developed the capacity to speak.
In fact we’ve been telling each other stories for thousands of years to help us to make sense of the world and our place in it. Stories have allowed us to create and even reinvent our lives, to imagine and create demons and monsters as well as gods, divine entities and even fairies.
Can you imagine what life would be like without fairy tales?
Stories can not only be a powerful tool for persuading and connecting with people but the good ones; well told, are remembered and inspire thought, feeling and action.
Uri Hasson at Princeton University suggests that during the telling of a story the brains of storytellers and their listeners activate the same regions of the brain in the same way.
Given the fact that we’ve been doing it for thousands of years and it’s how we communicate and connect with each other every day, why is it that most business presentations are just focused on information?
The PowerPoint goes up and we blind our listeners with facts, statistics and data that we believe will speak for itself.
All we have to do is show them or worse still read it to them.
Many people believe that the only people who inflict such misery onto audiences are experts such as scientists, engineers, accountants and lawyers, but it’s not true. A vast number of other professionals believe that it’s only the information that is important and how they deliver it is irrelevant.
This couldn’t be further from the truth
Numbers and facts on their own are impotent. They don’t create an emotional connection or understanding and are far less likely to be retained and acted upon. Regardless of the level of expertise it’s the presenter’s job to give the numbers or data meaning by placing them in context and bringing them to life through relevant stories.
Audiences don’t like to have to work too hard to understand a presentation and the one thing they value even less is feeling ambushed by data.
It’s my belief that a presentation without stories is more akin to a lecture.
Telling short, effective and relevant stories is a vital quality for anyone who wants to relate to and influence an audience. It’s the presenter’s job to unify an audience and to create a bond between them and their listeners that engenders trust, belief and inspires action.
One reason professionals and leaders are reticent about including stories in their presentations is because they just don’t know where to start or what type of story to share.
Here are 7 types for you to consider for your next presentation.
1. The Window
This is a story where you open a personal window into your world so that your audience can see you as a human being as well as an expert. It’s a window that will help them understand a little about you, your background, your values and even your passion. They get a glimpse of what makes you who you are. It requires a little courage and self-disclosure where you may share a story about a childhood or family experience, an insight of parenthood or leadership or perhaps a significant turning point.
2. The Challenge
This is a story about overcoming adversity or a time where you had to rise to a challenge that required some courage. It’s a story about change, growth and learning which revolves around the option of ‘fight or flight’ and you had to make a choice.
3. The Leader
This is a story about the leader in you. It’s about vision, drive and the passion to succeed as a parent, boss or leader in any walk of life. It’s where you demonstrate how you were able to lead others through a difficult situation or challenge.
4. The Hero
This is a story that isn’t necessarily about you, in other words you don’t have to be the hero. The hero could be a product, a service an idea or an action that someone took to change the status quo.
5. The Mistake
This is a story about a personal failing or disappointment that was important you went through as you learned a great deal from it. It’s a story about you being human and fallible; it could be a funny self-depreciating story or one of an essential journey you had to experience.
6. The Server
This is a story in which someone needed your help; your family, your team or a colleague who reached out to you in some way. It’s a story about empathy or compassion.
7. The Change
This is a story about how you either instigated and led or experienced significant change. It may be cultural, behavioural or emotional but it’s a story which represents the process, power and impact of change.
“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
As you prepare for your next presentation regardless of the importance of the data or the message, sit quietly for a moment with a pen and paper and reflect on each of these areas and pinpoint at least one relevant story.
Your life is full of stories, in fact it’s arguably one giant collection of stories so take the time to review your past and find the meaningful stories that will help you to animate your message and connect with your audience.
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