Captivate Your Audience With The Art Of Presentation Storytelling
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One of the best forms of communicating is through storytelling.
Storytelling has been part of our ancestral past and is now ingrained in the fibers our very being. It is how we communicate new ideas, lessons and above all us, emotions. Without storytelling, we truly are isolated to live life through our own experiences and interpretations of our “ordinary world”. Storytelling provides us with the social capabilities of finding common ground in our lives as we all go through existence independently. Storytelling gives us the ability to bring the tiny moments in our life that shape us into who we are to the foreground in a more monumental way and find common ground amongst one another.
The ability to tell a story that can influence people is an art form and a skill that will take you far in life. If you are able to master the art of storytelling, you will be successful in almost all parts of life if you know how to apply the skill appropriately. The same goes for the mastery of presentations and presenting.
Great presentations incorporate storytelling techniques which make them so engaging and have the ability to influence audiences. Stories engage audiences no matter what walk of life they come from because most great stories all hinge on simple, small moments most people can relate to.
What Is Storytelling?
For most people, storytelling might just seem like a linear recount of events, but it’s more than that.
Storytelling is not a linear recalling of events. It can not be reduced to the common formula of, “First ‘A’ happened, then ‘B’ and then ‘C’ is how it all ended.”. No – as mentioned earlier, storytelling really only hinges on about 5 seconds of a moment – a realization. The 5 seconds is the climax or the change and character arc of a story.
It is how “A” became “B”.
This change, in most stories really only takes about 5 seconds in the real-world but you help make that 5 second moment more impactful by sharing the setting, the build-up and the follow-up of that moment.
Storytelling happens in all walks of life. From the casual conversations held between family members in the kitchen to world-class presentation seminars. The art of storytelling spans across cultures and generations. For this, it is probably one of the greatest tools and techniques to ever be developed and one that will continue to shape and influence our lives.
The Best Story Structure For Different Presentations
Depending on the objective of your presentation, there are a few story structures you can use to help bring your point across. Below we’ve outlined some of the expected outcomes you may want out of your presentation. Depending on your desired outcome, we will share with you the best story structure to follow.
If you want to take your audience on a journey - Hero's Journey
This is the most common storytelling structure commonly found in myths, children’s stories and in movies. Like Star Wars or the Lion King, the Hero’s journey is about the protagonist leaving the comfort of their home in search of newfound wisdom or growth. Often accompanied by a sage or someone with experience, the protagonist grows and learns from their journey to return home as a new person. By the end of the story arc, the audience has seen first-hand the growth and development of the main character.
This is a perfect example of a great story formula unlike the common, misconception formula. This story shows the progression and change from “A” to “B”.
An added tip is not to overthink what these changing moments are. You do not need a grand change in character for a story to be good. The change can simply be a realization of truth. For example, when you pull away all the embellishments of the movie “Click” by Adam Sandler, it’s not a movie about time traveling and wondrous magical remotes. It’s a movie about how a father learns to appreciate every moment with their family – the good and the bad.
If you want to build tension - The Mountain
The second story technique is “The Mountain”. The Mountain technique is another common storytelling technique in which the storyteller highlights the growth in tension as the story progresses. Each step of the way, more tension builds till the climactic conclusion.
If you want to explain a central concept - Nested Loops
A “Nested Loops” storytelling structure allows you to highlight a core story by layering tertiary stories around the main idea. You put the most important part or message at the center and build around it.
Picture it like degrees of separation from the main idea. At the center is the moral of the story. The next layer might be from a perspective who lived the story first-hand. The second layer might be from the perspective of someone else. However, all of the stories relate back to the core theme.
If you want your audience to gain hope and take action - Sparklines
Using the Sparklines structure allows you to elevate people’s hope to create change. You tell a story, give them aspirations and juxtapose the hopefulness with the stark reality of the world we are living in now. This structure is great for eliciting motivation out of your audience by playing on their emotions of hope. By weaving in and out of the potential hope and the dismal reality, you create motivation for change.
If you want to grab your audience's attention from the start - In Media Res
What better way to get audience engagement than by placing them right in the middle of the action from the very beginning. Rather than building up to the action, you drop the audience right at the climax of the action. But note, just because you drop them in the middle of the action, does not mean you are dropping them in at the climax. The climax of the story is the 5 second moment when your character changes from “A” to “B”. The action however can lead up to the 5 second moment.
If you want to illustrate mutual relationship forming - Converging Ideas
One of the greatest ways of bridging people through storytelling is by using the “Converging Ideas” story structure. The “Converging Ideas”story outline can help illustrate how different ideas are similar to one another that lead to a similar outcome. This is especially useful in the business world of presentations that can help demonstrate to your audience that everyone wants the same end goal even if we have different means of getting to that end goal. This will allow you to show your audience that you are sympathetic and you understand them.
If you want to disrupt audience expectations - The False Start
Another great storytelling outline to use, especially if you are speaking to a veteran or seasoned audience is “The False Start”. After hearing so many stories, so many pitches that all follow the same structure, a false start leads your audience on a predictable path which turns out to be completely wrong. It’s an especially good way to tell about new and innovative ideas you’ve tried out. Rather than speaking to a conventional way of figuring something out, you can share new insights in an engaging way.
If you want to talk around a central concept through several ideas - Petal Structure
The last story structure is “The Petal Structure”. The Petal Structure is used when you want to focus more on the core message rather than the story. This structure typically uses more than one story either from one speaker or multiple speakers that all surround the core theme.
Why You Should Be Telling Stories In Your Presentation
No matter how different people’s thinking is, telling stories is an effective technique to get your central message across. Storytelling is an incredibly effective technique since it is ingrained in our DNA as humans. We are social creatures that thrive on the connection stories make. By being able to tell stories in your presentations, you will be able to influence more people. Here are some reasons why you should incorporate storytelling techniques in your presentations.
1 - Stories will make your business more human and relatable
Businesses are not human and humans want to do business with other humans. In order to have your business be successful, you need to be able to humanize it. Humanizing a business is often done through branding which is another form of storytelling. If you are giving a presentation on behalf of your business, you need to be able to make your business seem relatable and human. If you can master the art of storytelling in business presentations, you will be able to beat any sales team or marketing team.
2 - Stories will help you sell
Speaking of sales, storytelling in presentations will also help you sell. This goes hand-in-hand with how stories make businesses more human. If you are able to tell stories in your presentations, you will be able to sell. You will be able to sell better because you can connect your product or service as the golden ticket to the 5 second moment people are trying to achieve. As mentioned earlier, stories are really just 5 second moments of change when someone goes from “A” to “B”. Your product or service can be the catalyst to change what people are seeking and if you are able to present that with your story, you will be able to sell a lot more effectively.
3 - Stories can let you share knowledge
You may have a conference presentation in which you are trying to share knowledge and position yourself as an industry thought-leader. A great way to share knowledge and connect with your audience is by telling a story. A great way to share knowledge is by sharing the events you went through, how you overcame challenges of a difficult journey and have new found wisdom. Similar to the structure of a “Hero’s Journey”, you can make yourself the main character and demonstrate how you overcome challenges. By being able to talk about these personal experiences and give more detail of your own accounts, you are positioning yourself as an industry thought-leader.
4 - Stories can let you influence emotions
Lastly, one of the greatest abilities of skillful storytelling is the ability to influence emotions. We as humans are irrational beings and our emotions often dictate how we act in the world. If you have the ability to master the storytelling technique of influencing other people’s emotions, you can have them act in almost any way you desire.
How You Can Incorporate Stories In Different Presentations
Now that we know why you should incorporate stories in your presentations, let’s dive into how we can incorporate stories in different presentations. Now don’t forget, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. This is simply some thought-starters to get you thinking of how you can incorporate your own stories in your presentations. Depending on the presentation you are about to give, you may want to consider how you will angle your story to elevate your presentation.
Throughout this article, we’ve heavily focused on the idea of presentation storytelling as it relates to business presentations. This is mainly due to the fact that most presentations you will encounter in your professional life are business presentations. You will often have to engage in these presentations whether they are internal meetings or client pitch presentations.
You can use storytelling in business presentations in order to relate and show understanding with your client. There is a famous quote in business which is, “People buy when they feel understood, not when they understand you.” Don’t make the presentation or the story about you. Make it about the client and how you understand them.
In the world of academics, you will often be faced with research presentations. They might seem monotonous but how can you get an audience eager about the big and small challenges you’ve overcome throughout your research? With a story!
You can use storytelling in research presentations by taking the audience on a journey that centers around the one idea of your presentation, the thesis. This may be an unconventional way of presenting research findings and goes against the status quo, but it’s definitely a tactic not seen often which will surely engage your audience with your data and findings.
As we move into a more digital-focused world, we will start to see more interactive presentations which allow the audience to get more engaged with the content you’re presenting. Interactive presentations allow the presenter to really connect with their audience to help get their messaging across. Interactive presentations also help keep the audience engaged and provide a robust learning experience for all. As the presenter, you’ll be able to get presentation feedback first-hand and in real-time from your audience by facilitating an interactive presentation. But, how can you take your interactive presentation from a good presentation to a great presentation? The answer is with storytelling!
If you’re going for an interactive presentation, you can incorporate storytelling by combining everyone’s voice. Although everyone probably won’t have the same level of skill when it comes to storytelling as you do, they can still share their own experiences. You as the presenter with storytelling techniques can help facilitate and combine the stories together into one cohesive story. The benefit of doing this is the audience will feel heard.
By using an interactive presentation format, especially by incorporating storytelling, you’re allowing the audience to bring their own truths and personal experiences into the discussion. When the audience has more of themselves invested in the presentation, the more likely they are going to remember what you have to say. There is no need for them to get into the storyteller’s brain and try and understand when they are the storyteller. They already have lived through their own experiences and they know the characters in their own story. This reduces barriers for communication.
Final Thoughts On Presentation Storytelling
As we wrap-up writing this article on presentation storytelling and the importance of this skill, we are going to summarize the key takeaways and what you should really remember going forward when it comes to your next presentation.
Now that you understand the value of storytelling skills as it relates to business communications, we hope you will implement these best practices and techniques in your own presentations. Developing your first story may seem daunting and it takes some time, but once you get in your rhythm for story development, you will be able to find the tiny moments in life that make for great stories.
Need Help With An Awesome Design?
Luckily, this is a skill we’ve mastered at PresentationGeeks. We want to help you take unconnected stories and make a great presentation out of it and we believe everyone has a good story to share. We can help you create a well-rounded narrative that will engage your audience with the human side of your business rather than bombarding them with fact heavy presentations. Instead, we help you take the audience on a journey by incorporating storytelling in presentations.
We have in-house expertise that worked with multiple speakers to help tell their stories. We are presentation consultants that work collaboratively with you. Let’s connect to learn more about your business’s big idea and how we can craft an engaging story.