“Why did I fail to keep the audience engaged through my slides? My presentation had the best numbers, graphs, pie charts and business jargons but still I lost them somewhere in the middle.” Have such thoughts ever crossed your mind on reaching the last slide of your presentation to a group of corporate executives? If yes, then it’s time that you revisit your presentation style.
Don’t forget that the slideshow is a facilitator to enhance the presentation but it is not the presentation itself. The ultimate goal of the presentation is to deliver information in a way that motivates the audience to listen, reflect, retain and inspire to act, even after they have left the room.
Stories – an effective means of communication
Try to recall the moral of the ‘Hare and Tortoise’ story, which you would have read or heard as a child. Ever wondered why it is that even after so many years we have not forgotten it. This is because stories appeal to all three learning styles – auditory, by using changes in volume, tone, pitch and inflection; visual, by using colors, images and purposeful animation and kinesthetic, by involving us into the experience and emotions. Therefore, stories, anecdotes and metaphors are the most powerful and effective tools in getting the message across
Storytelling and PowerPoint
Synergizing the magic of storytelling with the power of projected media like Microsoft PowerPoint, helps to create an effective presentation. This would engage audience in active learning and hence, they are better able to understand and retain information. A strong theme and character persuade quicker action from the audience. A well thought out flow keeps their curiosity levels higher. Steve Jobs was considered to be the Guru of dramatic presentations. His presentations consisted of almost no bullet points, many visuals, and the slides were simple with one idea per slide.
To create a memorable presentation, follow a simple three-act play approach – typically used in our Bollywood movies – where a protagonist is introduced, he faces a problem, identifies the cause of the problem and resolves it resulting in a happy ending. A good story not only showcases the protagonist dealing with the problem and arriving at a solution but also brings to light how the protagonist struggles with the conflicts and successfully overcomes them. This adds drama and keeps the audience hungry for action. This approach was extensively used by Steve Jobs by creating a hero and a villain. Before he introduced the famous 1984 ad to a group of Apple salespeople, he set the stage, casting “Big Blue” as the villain. “IBM wants it all,” he warned, and defiantly asserted that only Apple (the hero) stood in its way. This dramatic moment sent the crowd into frenzy.
A successful presentation is accomplished in 4 steps – scripting, creating (the slides), rehearsing and delivering. Before you even open your laptop, chalk out the story using pen and paper or whiteboard. The slides have to be sequential with one leading to the next. As the name of the approach suggests the slides are developed in 3 acts. Act I is called Set up the Story – this involves laying the outline of the story by introducing the hero, the villain and the problem. This drives the story forward; Act II is called Develop the action – this is the main body of the presentation and requires introducing the conflict; Act III is Frame the resolution – this represents the changes to get desired results.
Cliff Atkinson in her book ‘Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft PowerPoint to create Presentations That Inform, Motivate and Inspire’ has designed a template (picture shown above) to structure a PowerPoint presentation in three acts. This is a good tool for beginners to organize their thoughts.
Tips for effective storytelling
- Turn facts into quotes: Rather than enlisting the facts as bullet points, turn them into quotes from individuals. This creates a lasting memory in the minds of the audience. For example, instead of putting the benefits of a new product feature in bullet points show them as quotes from your customers.
- Use customer anecdotes: Audience can argue on the facts but they are largely in agreement if they hear it from their customers’ mouth. So, consider adding them to infuse life into the presentation.
- Add pictures of people: Whenever your slides talk about people, give face to that person. Scientists argue that human brain relates easily to the face of the people especially eyes. This would help to strike a rapport with the audience.
- Use real examples: Rather than summing up the problem let your audience experience the situation. For example, if you want to draw attention to the non-user friendly aspects of the product website, get your audience to navigate through it. They would better understand the situation at hand.
- Dress up numbers: Put the numbers in context to make them more interesting and relevant to the audience. For example, rather than saying iPod has 5GB memory, say it can store 1,000 songs.
- Rehearse your presentation and use a conversation style (involving emotions and passion) of speech to deliver the presentation
Today, corporate boardrooms are flooded with PowerPoint presentations. In this scenario, to stand apart from the herd and get noticed, one needs to continuously review and experiment with newer presentation styles. Though it is difficult to weave the business data into a story but with some effort, it can be achieved. Here are some books that provide deeper insights into the concept:
Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft® Office PowerPoint® 2007 to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire by Cliff Atkinson
Speaking PowerPoint: The New Language of Business by Bruce Gabrielle
Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte
The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative by Stephen Denning
Wittten by Shailja Kaushik for Chillibreeze