How to tell stories in presentations

“Start with the truth. Identify the worldview of the people you need to reach. Describe the truth through their worldview. That’s your story. Negative or positive, the challenge isn’t just to tell the truth. It’s to tell truth that resonates.” Seth Godin

Tell stories in PowerPointI recently published this PowerPoint presentation that describes the value and effectiveness of telling stories in Presentations. Some of the folks that saw that presentation came up with a question, “Ok I get it. Stories make the concept stick in your prospect’s mind.

But how do I come up with the story?

Stories are ways in which we convey information. Whether it be a doctor talking to a patient about the benefits of giving up smoking or a car salesman working on you to buy the upgraded model, stories are woven into everything we do.

I remember a restaurant manager friend of mine, telling me how frustrated he was that food servers in his restaurant would not use an ice-scoop when getting ice for their drinks. Instead, they would just dip the glass into the icebin and fill it up with ice. If you know anything about that business, that is a strict no-no. The risk involved of getting a chipped piece of glass into the ice and accidentally serving that chipped glass in a drink to a restaurant patron is monumental. It could be a HUGE liability and the restaurant could lose their shorts trying to pay off the customer and all the legal teams involved if that were to ever happen. And yes, a few heads would possibly roll.

“Tell them a story and they will never forget.” I said to my friend.

So this is what he said to his servers at a shift meeting; You are unusually busy so late in the afternoon and you dip your glasses into the ice thinking to your self, “No one is looking and I am in a hurry. Big deal. Nothing is going to happen.” Unknowingly, a sharp wedge from the lip of a glass has chipped off and intermingled with the ice cubes and you have no idea.  It is now 3PM and and a beautiful family of three just came and sat at one of your tables. Mom and dad look like they left work early, picked up their daughter from school and came straight to our restaurant to have an early dinner. Daddy is holding little Erica’s hand as they walk to the table. Erica looks like she is getting all excited about coloring. When you approach them, Dad says he is ready for a Bud Light and Mom and Erica get a Sprite. You serve the drinks and walk away to help another table. As you are taking the order for another table, you hear a loud choking sound and a scream coming from behind. You turn around and Erica is laying on the floor with blood dripping down her mouth. Mom is hysterical and Dad is ready to kill you. The wait staff at their restaurant got the message good.

That was the power of a great story.

I am of the belief that the stories you tell in business do not have to be always have to be something that is necessarily true. As long as they are relevant and help you to convey the message, it is okay for a story to be hypothetical or fictional. If the story is not true, begin with “Imagine that you are …”
When you are coming up with ideas on how to tell the story or what story to tell,

Here are five ways to spice up your PowerPoint stories.

Use feedback your clients are giving you.

Your clients or customers have the loudest voice out of all the stakeholders in your company. Take what they are telling you and incorporate that into your story. “Joel had been telling us for years that we needed to update the client management module of our software. Well, with the 8.0 version Joel now is claiming that he is able to get a 40% productivity increase out of his sales team.”

Show me some dead birds.

Data slides are extremely difficult to understand and moreover, are not able to leave a lasting impression. Show me a graph of oil pollution levels in the Gulf for the past 4 years and I may or may not remember much. But show me a slide with a closeup of a few oil soaked dead seagulls with 100 point text that says 70% increase in oil pollution since 2008 and I will be sure to remember. Also keep in mind that is an element of your story.

Give your benefits some personality.

“We guarantee that you will be itch free for up to 12 hours after using Sam’s Balm” can be changed to a picture of a beaming itch free user of Sam’s Balm that proudly says,”Itch? what itch? I have not scratched myself since I applied Sam’s Balm this morning.”

Incorporate actual experiences in your presentation.

Amount of time it takes a first time visitor to find products in our stores vs the amount of time it takes at competitor A’s.  An overview of the breakdown in communication that our customers expreience when they want to make a complaint. Actual guest responses when an independent survey company asked about the reputation of our hotel.

Movies Baby, Movies.

Video can be a fantastic way to bring your presentation to life and help tell compelling stories. Videos of a man on the street asking questions about your product, videos of consumers interacting with your website or with your gadget, videos of guests enjoying their meal at your restaurant, or a video that shows your customer service staff’s body language when dealing with an irate customer. At times you may have to point out to your audience to look for the specific behavior that you are trying to spotlight. “She is saying the right words but look at her arms as she is speaking to the customer.”

There is no magic formula that will apply to all presentations when it comes to How to tell your story in PowerPoint. Different types of presentations will call for different techniques. However, as long as you give your presentation some life by incorporating stories, you will raise the bar on the quality of your presentation. Made to stick is a really good book that I have read that I would recommend to anyone that is working on telling better stories.

In a future post, I will discuss how to actually write an amazing story.

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