In the last part of this Presentation Management series of posts, we explored some aspects of a presentation’s life cycle: social engagement, reporting, and updating. In this part, we look at why telling better stories helps make better presentations.
We like the phrase, “Content is king!” Without some quality content, any presentation management implementation is a bit of a waste.
When we started working with clients back in the ’90s, every new job was a consulting project that including writing and designing presentations. Those presentation services were initially our primary source of income. We’ve worked with clients in every industry to help them write their stories and create libraries of slides that can be used and repurposed.
In this post, we will share what we’ve learned over the years about how to create exceptional presentations, including what we’ve learned from experts about how presentations affect the brains of those on the receiving end.
Presentations are the Stories for Business
The best presenters are great storytellers. The CEO is often the best storyteller in the company. Motivating people to act is integral to her and the company’s success, and stories do that better than statistics. Salespeople tend to be good storytellers as well, since their success is directly related to their ability to connect with customers. But employees in every department and function need to be good presenters. A research scientist can present a bunch of numbers with charts and graphs, and bore everyone to tears. But a great research presentation will tell the story of what that research means on a human level, with relatable characters and real feelings. That’s more interesting and more memorable.
You May Also Like: The Art of Storytelling: Presentations Are Corporate Storytelling by James Ontra
Imagine a Federal Express presentation to see what we mean. The FedEx company story is not just about the logistical genius of strategically placed shipping hubs combined with a fleet of trucks, cargo planes and ships, and a workforce of 250,000 delivery experts. Those are certain elements that make the company successful. But the corporate story is about helping businesses succeed. Think of a hardworking executive under pressure to meet a deadline. The executive is tired, stressed, and fearful of failure – of losing a client and losing her job because she might not deliver. All are strong emotions that we can relate to. Using FedEx, she can work until 9 p.m. and still get her product delivered to her client by 9 a.m. the next day. She gets more time to work, and her client is pleased to have the product on time. The sale gets closed. Everyone is happy.
For this FedEx presentation, you could use images of happy executives and combine them with facts about FedEx’s locations and guarantees of timeliness. But you will remember that the executive was able to turn a harrowing situation into a success story.
So let’s make the business world a better place, one presentation – one story – at a time. Here are some tips to help you craft better business stories, and then organize them in your presentation management solution so that your team can repurpose the slides and decks for their individual meetings.
Make It Relevant. Ask So What?
Every piece of content created should answer the question, “So what?” Whether you’re creating one slide, an entire presentation, a brochure, an email or even a tweet, it should tell the audience why that point is important — and, especially, why it’s important to the intended target. It will take you out of your own head and put you in your audience’s frame of mind. That mental exercise will push you to create more compelling content.
Here are a few messages that stand alone.
- Our sales increased 15 percent.
- Our widgets were rated No. 1 by this prestigious industry organization.
- You are a jerk.
Now let’s take those three statements and add “So What?”
- Our sales increased by 15 percent, which means you will get a bonus at Christmas.
- Our widgets were No. 1, which means you will get the best product for the lowest price.
- You are a jerk, which means no one wants work with you, and your job is in jeopardy.
We want to know, what’s in it for me? When you’re writing a presentation, you want to flat-out tell your audience why this is important, and why they should care. Don’t expect them to make that connection on their own. As a passive listener, that’s not their job. Rather, it’s your job as an active communicator. So what? gives the audience relevance and motivation. Since the purpose of most business presentations is to get people to act, then better presentations provide really good reasons to do so. So what? gives them that reason.
In the next part of this Presentation Management series of posts, we will explore why and how you must keep your presentations short and memorable.
Presentation Management Series: All Posts
All posts from the Presentation Management series are listed on this page, Presentation Management: The Entire Series.
First, try and answer these questions. Feel free to read the post again if needed. Then, scroll down to below the author profiles to find the answers.
Q1: Do presenters also need to be storytellers?
Q2: What is the question that every piece of content created should answer?
AlexAnndra Ontra, co-founder of Shufflrr, is a leading advocate for presentation management. She has been providing presentation technology and consulting services to global enterprises for over 15 years.
At Shufflrr, Alex advises Shufflrr clients through the process: from trial to content architecture, through the launch, training, and then on-going software upgrades. She’s hands-on. She is a leading expert in presentation management strategy, implementation, and adaptation.
James Ontra is co-founder and CEO of Shufflrr. His 30-year career has focused on the highest profile presentations for world class companies. His clients have included: American Express, Bloomberg, Epcot Center, Mercedes Benz, NBC Olympics, Warner Bros. and many more.
His vision and strategy have been driving Presentation Management to become a recognized communication discipline. James combined this passion with technical development to build Shufflrr. Presentation Management is smart communication strategy.
Geetesh Bajaj is an awarded Microsoft PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional), and has been designing and training with PowerPoint for more than two decades. He heads Indezine, a presentation design studio and content development organization based out of Hyderabad, India.
Geetesh believes that any PowerPoint presentation is a sum of its elements–these elements include abstract elements like story, consistency, and interactivity — and also slide elements like shapes, graphics, charts, text, sound, video, and animation. He explains how these elements work together in his training sessions. He has also authored six books on PowerPoint and Microsoft Office.
A1: The best presenters are great storytellers. The CEO is often the best storyteller in the company. Motivating people to act is integral to her and the company’s success, and stories do that better than statistics.
A2: Every piece of content created should answer the question, “So what?” Whether you’re creating one slide, an entire presentation, a brochure, an email or even a tweet, it should tell the audience why that point is important — and, especially, why it’s important to the intended target. It will take you out of your own head and put you in your audience’s frame of mind. That mental exercise will push you to create more compelling content.