If you have made presentations in the past, it is very likely that you have spent a fair amount of time thinking about ways to make it more engaging for your audience. I have grappled with this situation too. So when I saw a workshop on using
href=”http://www.presocamp.com/”>storytelling in presentations
href=”http://www.presocamp.com/”>storytelling in presentations, I registered for it. Here are a few things I learned.
The workshop provided practical tips to improve presentation content, delivery and brought forward two distinct styles for weaving stories into presentations. These styles emerged naturally during the impromptu presentations made by people in the audience and were not prescribed by our presentation coach Lynn Espinoza. Maybe that is why I found them to be more effective in communicating a message. Here are the two ways of using personal stories in your presentations to better engage the audience.
Use a single story to communicate the big idea:
This was surfaced in Carri Bugbee’s presentation on “Steps on writing for the Social Web.” Carri used the story of her new kitten, Bundle, who was initially intimidated by the unfamiliar surroundings and slowly got comfortable enough
to initiate interaction with the big cat in the house. To communicate her message, Carri used images of Bundle quietly sitting in a corner, observing the big cat, lurking behind the big cat, taking steps toward the big cat and then finally playing with the big cat. Sitting in the audience, I couldn’t help but wonder how the simplicity of the message was perfectly suited to calm the nerves of a social media newbie. The images told the story and unfolded guidelines that would be easy for someone to remember and follow. The key challenge for using the single story approach is to ensure that the story can be carried through the whole presentation.
Use multiple stories to communicate the big idea:
This was showcased in Bridget Pilloud’s presentation. Bridget is an ‘intuitive counselor’ and helps people view their life events in a positive light. She communicated the concept of having a positive outlook, by talking about her own personal stories. One of them involved getting a kidney stone removed. She showed the visual of a big kidney (it was an aesthetic image, unlike the image that is probably coming to your mind now) with her actual kidney stone on it and she described the event as being more positive than childbirth. She further elaborated that unlike giving birth to a child, she was happy that she did not have to care for the stone after it was out. This was her positive twist on an otherwise difficult life event. Stories like these are difficult to forget and the messages they deliver tend to stick. I
doubt if I will ever forget what Bridget does for a living, even though my interaction with her was only for a brief impromptu presentation.
Another presenter used three incidents that happened to her just last week, to reinforce the importance of having a social network. She talked about how she found a videographer for a client, a barn for her engagement, and a Spanish translator for another client all via her social network and within minutes of sending out her requests. Her presentation did not have any visuals, yet at the end of it, people from the audience were offering to help her find more barns and discuss ways to build their social network. An effective presentation indeed. Our presentation coach pointed out that the challenge in using this approach was to manage smooth transitions between the different stories.
Finally the success of using personal stories to drive a message cannot be complete without mentioning Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address.
While I am looking forward to using these approaches for my upcoming presentations, I am curious to know if anyone else has used them and what their experience might have been.