Storytelling in Presentations

It is estimated that over 30 million PowerPoint presentations are made each day. Roughly ¼ of these are useless, taking an average of 4 people per meeting room. If a presentation lasts approximately half an hour, then 15 million hours are wasted every single day.

A bored audience is an unhappy audience and one that is certainly not going to engage with what you are trying to achieve. In a bid to reduce the number of sleep-inducing presentations, we need to start telling stories.

The big no-no of presentations

Rely on your words, not just the text. If you are going to write everything down word for word on a slide, why not just send your whole presentation in an email? Presentations are about listening not reading – keep this in mind.

  • Use bullets to make key points, not to write paragraphs.

Putting blocks of text over a background doesn’t make it any better, it just makes it impossible to read.

Make sure all your graphs and charts have context, if not then they’re just numbers that don’t tell the audience anything. Statistics are great, but make them relevant to your audience and to the point you are are trying to make.

63% of your audience is likely to remember a story

Compared to 5% who will remember stats

What makes a good story?

  1. Grab people’s attention
  2. Relate to your audience
  3. Connect the logical & emotional parts of the brain

Stories are built: Beginning > Middle > End with conflict & resolution throughout.

Give your audience an idea of how long your story is. Manage their expectations – don’t leave them wondering when it will end.

Step 1) Start with a bang

Create a hook to keep them engaged. Say something disruptive & impactful. Your intro slide needs to be memorable and by the end of the presentation they should know what that means and leave feeling inspired.

Step 2) Understand your audience

Remember who you are talking to. A big problem is a disconnect between who is presenting and who the audience is. Don’t make it too technical, you need to be on their level so they can relate and empathise to engage emotions.

Step 3) Make your point

There is nothing worse than a meaningless graph with pointless numbers showing a 20% uplift in an irrelevant metric – what does that mean to your audience? Why does it matter? Talk about why it happened and what it means for the audience. If it doesn’t reinforce your point, take it out.

Step 4) Use a simple tone

Keep it simple. Don’t blind your audience with technical language and science, it won’t help, they will leave confused and avoid any further presentations. Explain your proposition in 1 sentence, don’t use 10 words when 5 will do.

Step 5) Introduce conflict & resolve it

Conflict helps engage your audience and resonate with emotions. Highlighting the problem, then explaining the solution makes it easier for the audience to understand.

Step 6) The audience is the hero

The audience needs to see themselves as the hero. Every hero in every story is going to go through conflicts & challenges, and ultimately overcome a reluctance to change.

A business may be stuck in an existing process, and struggle to see how much better an alternative solution could be. The presentation needs to give them the skills and insights to overcome industry challenges, become the hero and accept the new solution.

To do this effectively, you need to understand the audience’s fears. For example, is it because they don’t understand a new market?

Step 7) A picture is worth 1000 words

Or at least a relevant picture is. 83% of human learning is visual, and we absorb images quicker than words, so use imagery effectively to make an impact.

Show, don’t tell.

Instead of explaining a customer journey, show them, walk them through so the audience can understand and relate to a user’s perspective.

Step 8) An extra slide costs nothing

Add another slide, break it down into memorable chunks of information.
Cramming all your information into one slide doesn’t look pretty and your audience is not going to remember it.

But, before you go adding another 15 slides, check that all the points are relevant and ask yourself; do they all need to be written down?

Remember: Sell the story – not your product.

You need to sell them the journey from where they are, to where they want to be in order to get the outcome that you want.

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