“In the great green room
There was a telephone
And a red balloon
And a picture of-
The cow jumping over the moon.”
Thus begins Margaret Wise Brown’s classic children’s book Goodnight Moon. Children’s books exemplify innocence, simplicity and virtuousness. They teach children critical life lessons, and they remind their adult readers of the purity and innocence found in children that we should strive to mirror. They’re also fun to read. They keep things simple, and simple is good in a world that seems evermore complex and convoluted. Many lessons can be taken from children’s books when working to craft a compelling story for an upcoming presentation.
Simplicity is Key
Much of the power derived from children’s books lies in their simplicity. More often than not, the books tell a very simple story with a clear beginning, middle and end (or within a problem/solution structure). There is an obvious lesson to be learned from the book, which is presented with the utmost clarity.
Your presentation’s story should mirror the simplicity of a children’s book. Get to the point quickly, and make everything markedly easy to understand, in the most basic sense. Rather than say, “Chris is a stockbroker who lives in London and has business interests in Santiago,” break the sentence up into multiple sentences: “This is Chris. He’s a stockbroker. He lives in London. He does business in Santiago.” And throw each of those sentences on a separate slide, like you would in a children’s book by placing each on a separate page. Your audience will be much more receptive to your presentation if you open with a simple yet engaging story that eases them into the material.
Minimalist Look and Feel
Open a children’s book and rifle through the pages next time you get a chance. Or just peruse through the vintage children’s books here on Brain Pickings. Notice how the majority of the pages have a huge illustration or image with only a line or two of text. This is precisely how your slide deck should look, or at the very least how the opening story slides should look.
Minimalism is ideal. Employ big visuals and minimal text, and repeat. Harkening back to our previous example with Chris the stockbroker: The first slide would read, “This is Chris” and be accompanied with a large image of a man, and so on and so forth. Don’t be bogged down by the number of slides you’re using. Clicking through 20 slides with few words on them can take a little as a minute. The key is to engage the audience with substantial visuals and compel them to be interested in and absorbed by your presentation’s story. Simplicity is your best friend when crafting a presentation.
Time-Honored Literary Techniques
The literary techniques most often used in children’s books are ideal to use to strengthen your presentation’s language. Think again about Goodnight Moon. A significant chunk of that book relies heavily on repetition: “Goodnight chair. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon. Goodnight room. Goodnight moon.” And of course, rhythm is hugely important. Read the first stanza of the book again. Listen to how well that flows. It just sounds good. Use these literary techniques in your presentation. You don’t need to use them so overtly that you are banging your audience over the head with them. On the contrary, use them subtlety so that they lend nuance and tone to the overall feel of your presentation.
Children’s books are an effective guidepost to crafting a compelling, captivating story for the beginning of your presentation. Remember that simplicity is key, use a minimal look and feel, and employ time-honored literary techniques. Next time you’re responsible for reading a story to little Stevie or Annie at bedtime, think about how you could use some of that book’s magic in your next presentation.