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Once Upon a Time - 3 Ways of Using Stories to Present

My in-box is filled with blogs and newsletters emphasizing the importance of telling stories to maintain audience interest, cement learning and influence decisions.  But what if you don't consider yourself a skilled storyteller?  I have some ideas for you that will grab the attention of your audiences from your opening remarks to your close.

 Here are some examples of blogs that I have seen calling for the use of stories.

Kill Boring eLearning, "The Brain and The Stories We Tell: Top Reasons Why Stories Change Our Behavior.  Ray Jimenez, PhD from Vignettes Learning states:  "A sage was once asked by his students, "Master, we ask you the truth and you tell us stories," to which the master replied, "The shortest distance between you and the truth is a story."

Storytelling in eLearning: The Why and How Shelley A. Gable states, "Malcolm Knowles, John Keller, and other learning theorists remind us that adult learners must see the relevance of something in order to feel persuaded to learn about it. Explaining concepts in the context of a story that learners can relate to is crucial to the learning process".

The Psychological Power of Storytelling     Pamela B. Rutledge, PH.D., M.B.A.  Positively Media states: "Stories are how we are wired. Stories take place in the imagination. To the human brain, imagined experiences are processed the same as real experiences. Stories create genuine emotions, presence (the sense of being somewhere), and behavioral responses."

Moth Radio features great storytellers.  But few business presenters know how to structure or deliver a presentation with stories woven throughout.  

I have three ways to help you incorporate stories from the moment you open the presentation to your closing comments. All three elements are critical components of any presentation.  Whether you are an engineer, scientist, sales person or manager, you must provide appropriate data, deliver the information with passion and have a logical flow to the storyline.  Every story has a beginning, middle and end.  So do presentations.

1.  BEGINNING - Tell a story as you open your presentation.  It takes just seven words to create a first impression so why not make those first words count?  If you think back to a memorable presentation you've heard, chances are the speaker opened with a story to grab your attention.  Pieces of that story were then woven throughout the presentation to become a powerful metaphor that explained complicated data.

Example:  An engineer in one of my workshops came to class ready to deliver his final presentation.  He opened with a story about his young son who dressed himself for the very first time.  "He came into the kitchen with his shirt on correctly but his pants were on backwards.  We thought that was so cute.  I thought about that moment on the way to work and concluded that we have a similar situation in our regional office.  Half of us are moving in the right direction and the other half seem to be walking backwards.  How can we turn our pants around and move forward together?"

2.  MIDDLE - Create mini-stories in the body of your presentation.   Audiences love examples, personal experiences, expert testimonials, analogies and 3rd party stories that support the data.  Audiences will remember those nuggets longer then they will remember numbers and excel sheet graphs.  The role of any presenter is to make meaning out of the information and those convincing elements help you do that.

Example:  "Tuesday, I was in the CEO's office and she asked me if I had noticed the way the design team was involving a group of marketing managers in the latest rework of our new customer link?  She thought that was exactly what this company needed.  Transparency between departments and communications early in the process.  Those teams are definitely walking in the same direction."

3.  END - Close in a compelling manner.  Of course all closes must have a call to action but you also need to close in an inspiring way.   If you opened with a story, go back to that story and pull out the final nugget that summarizes your core message.  If you opened with a quote, close with a similar quote.  Perhaps you asked a provocative question in the open.  Then revisit that question or answer it in a different manner.  Your story can't just end with a "That all folks".  (Picture)

Example:  My young son has since experimented with other clothing ensembles.  While it takes forever for him to get dressed, his mistakes are often just a shoe on the wrong foot or something inside out.  He's figuring it out, step by step.  We'll figure this problem out step by step and it won't take forever."Your presentation has become a story, complete with a strong opening, persuasive convincing elements for each of your points and a compelling close that ties the entire presentation together.

Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made To Stick - Why Some Ideas Survive and Other Die, include stories as one their six principles of powerful ideas.  "A credible idea makes people believe.  An emotional idea makes people care.  The right stories make people act."

Red Cup Presentations is all about moving decision makers to action. Please share this story with others and visit the Red Cup Presentations web site to read past blogs for more presentation tips.  Let us know if you are interested in workshops or private coaching.


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