Tell me a story…

Author: Paul Edwards

I’ve lost count of how many presentations I’ve sat through over the past 20 plus years of being in this business.

But I do know how many I remember as being great.

Very, very few.

I’ve seen and heard presentations from well known people from all walks of life, from highly paid execs to junior staff, from professional speakers and nervous first-timers on stage for the first time.

And yet, I can recall only a handful that made a genuine impression on me and those that did, didn’t feel like a presentation at all.

Instead, they were stories.

Interesting stories. Engaging stories. Well-told stories.

The idea of stories and storytelling has become the word de jour as businesses look to try and differentiate themselves in an increasingly cluttered (yet surprisingly) homogenous marketplace.

Yet so few businesses (and people) do it right, let alone well. It’s still often just dressed up promotion rather than persuasion.

So here are some handy hints that can help turn your next presentation into something much more powerful (with thanks to one of my favourite companies IDEO.)

It all goes better with beer:

Imagine it’s taking place in a bar with mates. You wouldn’t use jargon.
You wouldn’t use tons of data. You’d soon know if you were boring them.
We all have an innate sense of what makes a good story but often forget it at work.

Think visual:

When you use images, people have to listen to you instead of reading ahead. You have the authority in the room. The slides do not. Use this as a rule; if the slides make sense without your speaking to them, there are almost certainly too many words!

Practice makes perfect:

It’s amazing how many people give vital presentations without rehearsing properly, if at all. The thing is, while people are natural-born storytellers, there’s no such thing as a natural-born presenter. Practice. Practice. Practice. Then do it with someone you trust to give you useful feedback that you have time to incorporate to do your best.

The best presentation I’ve seen in a long time was last year.

It was from Astronaut Chris Hadfield.

It featured amazing images from miles above the Earth, a live version of Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ and a 9-year-old Canadian boy standing in a field, looking up at the moon as man took his first step on it and a decision that would shape the rest of his life.

It was a simple story.

It was simply extraordinary.

Do you have a presentation tip to share? Would you like some help adding some storytelling to your subject? Either way, we’d love to hear from you.

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