We all talk about ‘Death by PowerPoint’ yet the massacre continues. There may be occasions when a picture, quotation or chart can help to reinforce a fact, but they rarely inspire an audience in the same way as a well told story. And still a terrifying proportion of highly paid execs continue to fall foul of the classic PowerPoint bloopers:
Stories have been with us from our earliest years. As children we begged our parents to tell us a story, and prehistoric man used story-telling to pass on information well before Wikipedia stepped in. Stories, unlike facts, engage us emotionally and whilst the information revolution has put knowledge at our fingertips we must not confuse knowledge with inspiration.
Stories underpin theatre, books, films and music and we all pay to hear these tales told through different media. Would anyone pay to hear even your best PowerPoint presentation?
Knowledge rarely changes behaviour, yet an inspiring speaker can engage an audience and drive change. So in a changing world what are the fundamental components of a great story?
1. Hook ’em
The hook should be your opening statement, it has to grab attention so the more personal the better. People are instinctively nosey and hearing about the speaker from the speaker appeals to our inquisitive nature.
2. Assemble the elements
Stories are made up of vital components including characters, locations, plots, conflicts and resolutions. By simply building these into your anecdote you will breathe life and energy into your story.
3. Tell it how it was
Combine detail (sights, sounds smells) with the chronological events of your story. Stories have natural momentum and by simply stating what happened in chronological order you will captivate your audience.
4. Build in suspense
It needn’t be shock horror. An unanswered question or a simple ‘but more about that later’ will hold the audience’s attention.
5. Wrap it up
Be sure to conclude by summing up why you’ve told the story:
Why is this relevant?
What’s the moral or point?
Who is this message for?
Your reflection can even be a subtle personal resolution. Then revisit the hook to tie it up.
Most importantly remember that it’s your story, you must deliver it – with passion, energy and sincerity. As you do, your audience will share in your emotion and engage with your message. What slide deck could promise you that?