May 20, 2015

Deliver a Knockout Presentation with Storytelling

4 Reasons Why Stories Deliver Results, 10 Tips of How to Tell Them and 5 Things You Should Avoid

The stories we tell shape our environment and allow us to share our thoughts, test ideas and portray a certain image of ourselves. They have immense power in our professional and personal lives, more than we realize, and have the potential to establish authority or ruin our careers. Politicians are widely known for using storytelling in their campaigns to convey ideas and win people’s favor. The story tactic is a form of persuasion that has much better chances of resonating with the audience and can turn a client into an evangelist for your business. From creating ads, sales or presentations, stories change the way people look at your brand and what you are selling.

Your story may change as business is always adapting and expanding, but historically popular stories reveal certain core elements that make yours a great and memorable one. This blog will elaborate on 4 reasons for why storytelling is a powerful tool, give you 10 tips on how to tell them and reveal 3 things you should avoid.

Related: What happens to your brain when someone tells a story? Why All Good Presenters Use Quotes.

It’s not just the story that makes or breaks your presentation, but also how you tell it and how you make the audience feel. When adapting this strategy, it’s vital to understand…

Why Stories are Important in the First Place

  1. Stories captivate. Have you ever been listening to a presentation only to find yourself drifting off into another realm of reality and thought? The average attention span in 2015, according to the Statistics Brain Research Institute, is 8.25 seconds! You’ll be lucky to get a few minutes of undivided attention before the first person goes off into la-la land or starts checking his/her email. Don’t waste the first few minutes explaining complicated strategies, but engage your audience with a story right from the start.
    Related: Attention Span Statistics
  2.  Stories stick longer. The best advertising agencies don’t go into the details when pitching a product, but rather, they tell a story. Whether they are about a customer or business, stories simplify the message and if memorable, will stick in your audience’s minds much better than mere facts. This reason is that both sides of the brain are activated when listening to stories, and store them in the long-term memory of the recipient. If you have a captivating story, your audience will remember you and your ideas
    Related: How Metaphors Make Presenting Exciting
  3. Stories build relationships. Telling stories makes you more human. It’s what mankind has been doing for over 40,000 years or so when cave paintings first existed. It’s how we learn to understand and connect to one another. Neuroscientists have researched different areas of the brain and have found that the whole brain is at work when listening to a story, rather than when listening to a fact, which is only a simple decoding process. Stories can make your audience think and feel the same way and can be the springboard for establishing a relationship. So next time HR asks you about your background, tie it into a story and surely they will remember you after an interview or presentation. It’s just human nature.
  4. Stories fuel your marketing. Easy to remember and effective, a great story can be retold and shared. Don’t fret about large companies having a hefty budget for marketing and advertising. Stories are your best friend, as not only are they a low-cost communication tool, but they also have the potential to fuel your social media and be shared. It’s much easier to share great story content than a product! It’s how you expand your realm of influence to friends of friends of friends.


Tips on How to Tell Your Story

Lay a Foundation…

  1. Set the groundwork. Define who your audience is and how they would best relate. Your method of presenting will certainly differ if your audience is a group of high school students as opposed to bio engineers or bankers. Find out whom you’re talking to and try to set your message to their language and understanding.
  2. Relate. Why will people identify with your story? Forge a connection by casting a sympathetic setting with similar difficulties your audience may have. Remember, stories aren’t about products, they’re about people.
  3. Be unique. Consider how your story will be different from others. What’s special about it and how will it stand out? Do you have new data that is surprising? New research that may alter business? Transform the knowing into telling, describing and visualizing.
  4. Build tension. Define the conflict and build a climaxEvery great story has some obstacle that needs to be overcome. Make sure you point out what would have been different if you hadn’t taken the route you did.
  5. Deliver a turning point. Present your a-ha moment, your resolution to the problem or the plot twist of your story.
  6. Explain the outcome. What happened and why is it significant? Clarify the lesson and what action you are proposing people make

Be Conscious to…

  1. Use visuals. Did you know that humans tend to think in pictures and that articles with images receive a total 94 percent more views? Sharing content with strong visual images makes a significant impact on how the audience will remember you, whether in media or presentations. That’s because words are merely processed in our short-term memory, but images are etched into our long-term memory.
  2. Slow down and don’t fear silence. If you speak too fast, it’s likely that others will not understand what you’re saying. Taking time to speak makes you look confident and allows the audience more time to process the information you are delivering. Integrate the power of silence into your presentation.
  3. Keep it simple. The main storyline should be straightforward, so it can be easily understood and repeated.
  4. Have fun and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Kind of a no-brainer and all the best presenters rehearse for hours before coming onstage. Don’t leave your enthusiasm behind! If you are entertaining and engaging, people will like you and find whatever you are presenting much more interesting. Remember, smiling is contagious and so is having a good time.


What You Should Avoid

  1. Coming unprepared. Lack of training and practice transfers to lack of professionalismEven the best speakers don’t take chances at winging a presentation. Steve Job’s secret formula for making his presentations look effortless was rehearsing aloud for countless hours.
  2. Not knowing your audience’s definition of value. It’s hard to communicate value if you don’t know how the audience views it. What’s important to them? Your speech should resonate with and be meaningful to them. However, you can only deliver if you understand the other side.
  3. Not knowing where the audience wants to go. If you don’t know what your audience wants or what they are looking for its hard to deliver. Think about what the destination for your audience or customer is and what their expectations are – why are they listening to you? Find out where the audience wants to go so you can speak directly to this point.
  4. Ignoring the audience’s worldview. If you know the audience’s perspective and viewpoint, then you can steer your speech in that direction. This will help the audience easily connect with you and will also give you a competitive edge to deliver something the audience can chew on and think over.
  5. Negative rhetoric. It can be very ineffective. Think twice before polluting your presentation with negativity toward your competitors or other people. Consider that one, it’s difficult to listen to “complainers,” and two, you want to leave a positive impression. Of course, this is not to be confused with critical thinking, but be careful of frustration that causes more suffering. Don’t let your audience red-flag you!

A story can educate, entertain and persuade; it can land you a job or get you fired. Mastering the skill of storytelling to its best advantage will help us lay a solid foundation and be conscious of how we deliver to an audience. It’s something that might be useful for referring to when crafting your next presentation. We would love your comments and thoughts!

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