Want your audience to be bored stiff? Confused? Both? Well sit down and create a bunch of traditional presentation slides and you’ll get your wish.
Not only will the audience end up brain-dead, they won’t be any more informed about your product/service than when they walked into the presentation room.
So okay, you don’t want the above scenario played out anymore. How to avoid it?
After making a diagnosis – learning about your prospective audience and where they’re coming from – start thinking about the presentation content that has to support the story you want to tell.
1. First, do the homework. Gather the information that will support the central theme of your presentation. Data, text, charts, tables, pictures, are all elements that can be used to compose and support a story.
2. Now organize the raw material into blocks/themes. These blocks/themes are your messages. (These can include the theme of the discovery, the theme of the conflict, the theme of the benefits to the audience, among others.) At this stage, start to filter out anything that really isn’t necessary to make your point(s).
3. To do the filtering, ask yourself:
- Purpose – Does the information, the data, the numbers help me achieve my presentation goal? No? So trash it.
- Audience – Will the data meet the needs of my audience? Is it going to help my audience in any way? Is it relevant to the people I’ll be talking to? Yes, yes and yes? Then it makes sense to include it.
- Timing – How long do I have to make the presentation? In two hours you can go into some detail. In fifteen minutes, not so much. In this case, limit the presentation to the essence of the message and leave the details for a document to be delivered later.
4. After your main blocks/themes/messages are well defined, put them in order so they come across as a logical story. If the blocks/themes/messages are arranged in a smart sequence, an audience will easily grasp and retain what you convey.
5. Try linking all the blocks/themes/messages so there’s a natural connection between each. One way to do this is to end each with a question that you answer at the beginning of the next. This way you create a natural chain that triggers curiosity. And curiosity means an attentive audience.
6. Now it’s time for the outline. The outline is the index of a presentation script, the flow of the story. Here you need to look at each block/theme/message and extract one key point from each. This is how you prioritize content while also getting a first macro look at a story.
7. Now, with the blocks/themes/messages of your story lined up and summarized, it’s time to write and develop each one so you end up telling a story with them. Now is the time to start adding relevant and important information to flesh out each of your points. When you feel you’ve said enough to be understood, stop writing.
8. Your story should be divided into 3 parts, or 3 acts: a beginning (introduction), a middle (development, including a climax point), and an end (your conclusion). To get more details about how to create a good story, click here.
9. Now it’s time to decide what goes in the speech and what goes on the slides, since it makes no sense to have the same information on both. The slides are to complement the speech. And they should contain very few numbers, very few words, and/or only the one or two images that illustrate the message(s) you want to convey.
10. Okay, so you’ve allocated the speech content and the slide content. Now it’s time to cut out what you don’t need. Look at your outline, look at the slides and look at your speech. If a slide doesn’t help to effectively convey a message or key point, get rid of it. If the same information appears on more than one slide, get rid of one. If you see that a slide contains irrelevant or not-needed information, out it goes.
And that is how the storytelling technique works for business presentations. We started with a lot of mixed information. We began to filter it to get at the relevant material. We decided on an order and created an outline. From the outline we wrote our story, with beginning, middle and end. Finally, we got rid of the window-dressing, the extra stuff. (Remember boring and confused? Well by now you need to be well past that and into just plain interesting.)