Imagine turning up for work as usual on Monday morning and before you even take your coat off your boss says, ‘ Don’t take your coat off we are going straight out’.
Isn’t it likely that your first response may be ‘Where are we going?’ closely followed by ‘why are we going there?’ concluding with ‘how are we going to get there?’.
It’s the same when your audience enter a meeting room or auditorium to listen to your presentation. The difference is they won’t actually ask you the questions because they will trust that you will make it abundantly clear at the outset.
Every presentation is a journey which demands high interest, challenge, absolute clarity and the arrival at a worthwhile destination. If you make the mistake that many professionals do and simply share the data that’s the equivalent of you saying ‘don’t take your coat off we are going straight out’ the moment they are seated.
If your audience don’t know where they are going whilst they are with you, they won’t follow you there and you’ll leave them feeling frustrated. Taking your audience on a journey is the goal of every presentation.
The Hero’s Journey
There is a great deal we can learn about how to take our audience on a powerful journey through the world of storytelling. The most creative, robust and effective approach I have come across to help us has been around for decades. It’s the universal story structure shared with us by American mythologist Joseph Campbell which has come to be known as the hero’s journey.
I wrote about this in a previous article called ‘9 powerful steps to storytelling in business – brought to life.’ This was a persuasive approach that I learned from reading the work of the master storyteller Doug Stevenson.
Before embarking on the 9 steps however it’s critical that you build a firm foundation on which to structure your story.
As robust as the 9 steps are you can be certain that your construction will crumble without absolute clarity of your objective and intention for commencing the journey in the first place.
Your objective is crucial to ensuring that you arrive at your chosen destination before you even begin to map out your journey. It can only be set by asking and answering one extremely important question before you craft your nine steps.
‘What do you want your audience to do when you’ve finished speaking’
The 9 steps
1. Set the scene – Give them some background and context. Make it short, relevant and compelling.
2. Introduce the characters (although not necessarily Step 2) – Who’s involved or impacted. Customers, staff, suppliers and why should your audience care?
3. Begin the journey –Where are you taking them, what do you want them to do and why?
4. Encounter the obstacle- What’s in the way, the challenge, problem or concern?
5. Overcome the obstacle – How are you going to get there?
6. Resolve the story-How will things look at the end?
7. Make the point- Why it’s so important. The benefits and cost of doing nothing.
8. Ask ‘The Question’- ‘What do you want from them and how can they help you?
9. Repeat the point– Tell them again why what you are talking about/sharing/asking is so important.
What isn’t part of the journey?
Dumping data on them
Sharing so much information that they are overloaded
Sharing information which is irrelevant
Presenting something which you could easily share in an email
Causing doubt and confusion
No clear objective and intention
No worthwhile destination
Most people don’t get overexcited about attending business presentations but everyone loves going on a great journey so make sure you craft and deliver your presentation as an adventure.
The following animation offers a simple yet compelling explanation of the hero’s journey.
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