This is the third article in the series The Art and Science of Presenting. The second article was called ‘The Conversation’, Episode 3 takes us to the story we will tell based on the conversation we wish to have:
– The Audience
– The Conversation
– The Story
You understand your audience and you have a very clear idea of the conversation you wish to have with them, so now it’s time to turn that conversation into a compelling story.
Because that’s how we live and how we learn; we’ve been telling stories to each other since the beginning of time and there really is no more powerful a way of communicating and connecting with each other.
This post is designed to help you to create a conversation through the use of story.
Most presentations today are designed to deliver information although the most effective way of sharing knowledge or data with impact in a way that is memorable is through telling stories.
As you will know from your own experience all great stories elicit some form of imbalance or dissonance which gets resolved; something which is always appealing to an audience. We all like the tension, contrast, surprise and suspense of a good story well told.
That dissonance tends to revolve around creating a sense of tension and frustration between conveying the issues with the status quo versus the relief and positivity of what could be. Every great novel and movie in history begins with the problem, challenge or status quo and then takes us on a transformational journey to a new world.
Every good story has a beginning, middle and end.
The way to begin is by reminding the audience of exactly where they are today and what they are experiencing before you even begin to paint a picture of new possibilities. This immediately creates a level of resonance with the audience in them acknowledging the fact that you understand and relate to their current reality. This not only creates recognition but also a rapport between you and them making them more likely to listen to what you have to say next.
After you’ve reminded them of the way things are the secret is to introduce the paradox of discomfort with excitement through sharing what could happen if they embrace your idea.
Many speakers have heard the term, ‘The Hero’s Journey, a phrase coined by the American writer Joseph Campbell which is a structure of storytelling constructed through 12 stages.
‘The Hero’s Journey’ is a fabulous story telling structure which has not only been around for decades but has also been used to create some of the most memorable films we have seen. Star Wars, Indiana Jones, James Bond and even the latest Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter Movies have been based on ‘The Heroes Journey’ and here it is simplified in 9 easy steps:
1. Set the scene
2. Introduce the characters (although not necessarily Step 2)
3. Begin the journey
4. Encounter the obstacle
5. Overcome the obstacle
6. Resolve the story
7. Make the point
8. Ask ‘The Question’
9. Repeat the point
The middle of the story involves a constant ‘tug of war’ between what things are like today and what they could be like in the future.
The end of the story should be much more than a call to action, it should be an inspiration to action. In other words, your audience should feel moved to embrace your idea and get to work on it immediately. This can only be achieved if you can show them what the future could look like for them and what the benefits would be.
Human beings are hard wired to listen and respond to stories and all compelling presentations take the form of a story as a journey. Within that journey the emotional connection is achieved through individual relevant stories.
We each have many stories to tell and we don’t have to search too hard for them, they can come from just about anywhere. The best stories are the personal ones which come in all shapes and sizes:
They could be about important or even turning points in our life, experiences with other people, important places and things that we love and those that we’ve learned lessons from.
How to tell them
The best way to tell a story is to re-live it so that your audience can experience it for themselves. Tell it with feeling and action as though you were back in the moment.
Your stories should fit within the context of your presentation and be relevant to the point you are trying to make so that your audience can easily relate to, and identify with it. You must be comfortable telling them, they must be true and they should be short.
A good story should not be expected to replace an idea or information but help bring it to life.
The power of metaphors
A really effective way of introducing stories to your presentation is through the use of metaphors.
Consider the impact of one of history’s most powerful speeches Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. I’ve highlighted below a handful of some of the metaphors he used to such great effect that over 250,000 people connected to his every word in Washington in 1963:
‘This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.’
‘One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.’
‘America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked “insufficient funds”.’
We remember great stories
Stories have enormous power not just in helping us to bring our message and the conversation to life but a great story well told is remembered and repeated. As you choose your stories carefully remember 2 things that can add significant impact to the way they are received and remembered.
– A shocking or surprising fact, statement or statistic
If you have one that accompanies your story then don’t gloss over it, emphasise it.
– Expressive visuals
Use expressive and evocative visuals to resonate with your audience and help them to use their imagination and feel what you are saying.
Watch out for episode 4 of The Art and Science of Presenting where we will share how to envision your presentation.
If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your presentation skills are you may want to take a look at our presentation training and presentation coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.
Image: Courtesy of flickr.com