Want to take your presentation skills to the next level? Tired of just flipping thru PowerPoint slides and boring your audience with data? Start thinking like Aesop and start telling stories.
Presentations based on PowerPoint slides can be deadly, but presentations based on examples, real-life situations and stories can be inspiring and memorable. Most of us can remember dozens of stories from our childhood. A story like, The Tortoise and the Hare from Aesop is a great example. You can never underestimate the power of a good story. Storytellers captivate, motivate and inspire an audience. And great salespeople the world over know and use this power to engage with customers.
The Basic Story Formula
So how do you plan a presentation based on story and what are the elements of a great business story? It boils down to a simple formula: someone doing something against odds.
The someone can be a person, a company or even a product. The something is an action. And the odds, well, that could be a villain or obstacle or challenge. These are the basic elements of all good stories. Now, how do you put those elements to work?
A Story Needs a Hero or Heroine
A story needs a character we can relate to. Start with describing the main character or actor. This could be someone like Erik Weihenmayer an adventurer who climbed Mount Everest. The character could be a small company struggling to gain market share against a Fortune 500 giant, or a salesperson with a disability like Bill Porter who would not take no for an answer.
Describe a Challenge
One you have introduced your character; explain how this character struggled to achieve something or conquered obstacles against all odds. For mountain climber Erik Weihenmeyer, his challenge is that he is totally blind! He not only climbs mountains, but scuba dives and parachutes out of planes! For Bill Porter, cerebral palsy left him with impaired speech and a pain-wracked body. But that never stopped him for selling in a grueling door-to-door market. The movie of his life, Door to Door, shows how he overcame insurmountable odds to be one of the top salesmen in America.
The best characters and challenges are inspirational, and like Aesop, the audience can see a lesson in the characters as they struggle to succeed. You need to draw that conclusion for your audience: do not assume they will connect the dots on their own.
Relate Back to Your Audience
The most important part of your story is to make the challenges of the character relevant to your audience. Does your team face obstacles? What could they learn from the determination and resolve of your character? Is the economy a villain working against a small company? What strategy did that company put in place to overcome the economic downturn and succeed? Show your audience HOW they could do the same. Even better, what is your personal story of rising above the odds…your obstacles…your solution? Audiences love a personal story of triumph.
Practice Makes Perfect
Mastering the art of the story can propel your speaking to new heights, but you need to practice. After all, it IS an art. Try storytelling on a regular basis in small meetings or staff events to gain feedback on your skills. Get comments on what works and does not. Listen to good storytellers and take mental notes. Keep a journal and fill it with all the great examples of stories that you hear everyday.
When you have the right story for the right audience, go for it! You will never go back to PowerPoint again!
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Assistant Editor: Emily Linden
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