Engaging Presentations = Great Story Telling

You may or may not know that I’ve embarked on yet another “American Dream” and started to write my first novel.

I typically teach myself new skills, but I decided this time I would seek appropriate advice on how to write a novel (you can learn more about the wonderful program at SMU here – yes, I’ve lowered my standard in going to the “Harvard of the South” for once, but this program in particular is worth it).

So why am I telling you this? How does this relate to you and presenting? Well, even though one goal of taking the class is to get published, another underlying goal is to apply the tools of novel story telling to something I do on the day job – presenting.

So while we may not have 20 hours, let alone one hour, to captivate the audience with the hero, introduce the mentor, hit a low, find the climax and have a compelling epilogue, there are some basic novel components to think about applying in creating your next award winning presentation:

1. Know Your “Hero”
C’mon, I present on concepts, products or services, right? But do you really know “the hero” behind what you are presenting. Basically, do you have your own “reference” – content, examples, etc. you can reference as background material in talking passionately about what you are presenting?

What are the 12 events that got that concept or product to where it is today? What are the pros, cons? Who are the people behind making the great “thing” you are describing to your audience? You’ll never use this content in slideware or talking note, but is good information to have in the back of your mind as you put your presentation together.

2. Deliver In Acts
Most stories are delivered in 3 acts – beginning (setup of location/characters), middle (confrontation with the problem at hand) and end (resolution of the problem). So in your next presentation prep, break your script down into three acts to help develop more intriguing content to engage your audience.

For example, in “act 1” do you tell any compelling industry facts or figures? Trends? Where you or your company has been – the world we have been or are in today? Presenters often forget the criticality of setting up the story to hook in the audience.

In act 2, confront the problem your product, service, concept, whatever, is going to solve, but confront the problem head on. Why is it an issue for your audience? What are the things that could help solve it? I believe many presenters don’t engage the audience enough in understanding the problem and root causes up front to keep them interested in hearing the solution 10 to 30 minutes later.

In act 3, solve the problem. But don’t just give the answer – unravel it like a story teller. What is all the hard work and effort to reach the solution? How do we get back to our “home base”? How is this going to improve things for the audience listening to us?

3. Tell It From the Heart
Again, it’s about being passionate about what you do – steer clear of presentations your not bought into and focus on talking about what you love. It may be the people you represent, a technology you sell or a great concept your pitching. But make sure you love it to convince others to love it with you. Otherwise, don’t bother.

You can learn more about the structure of a story via the book I am currently reading, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler.

Since I’m only in Novel 1 expect to learn more on how to apply story telling to your next presentation to “wow” your audience.

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